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Digitalization, routineness and employment: An exploration on Italian task-based data

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  • Cirillo, Valeria
  • Evangelista, Rinaldo
  • Guarascio, Dario
  • Sostero, Matteo

Abstract

This paper explores the relation between the digitalization of labour processes, the level of routineness of labour tasks and changes in employment in the case of Italy in the period 2011-16. The levels of digitalization and routineness of occupations in more than 500 4-digit ISCO professional groups are measured using data from a unique Italian profession-level survey on skill, tasks and work contents – the INAPP-ISTAT Survey on Italian Occupations (ICP), an O*NET-type dataset. Two digitalization indices are used: a digital use index, measuring the use of computers and e-mail in the workplace, and a digital tasks index, capturing the presence of a set of key digital tasks, such as those related to programming or activities concerning the use of specialized hardware. The same dataset is used to compute a composite routine task intensity index. The descriptive evidence presented in the paper shows strong differences across occupations in the level of digitalization and routineness, and the presence of a negative relation between the two in most professional groups. The econometric estimates show that digital-intensive occupations tend to grow more than the rest of the workforce, particularly when digitalization is measured relying on the digital use indicator. The level of routineness, in turn, is negatively or, in some specifications, not significantly associated to employment change. However, occupations that are both digital and routine-intensive turn out to be penalized in terms of employment growth, providing further support to (and further qualifying) the the routine biased technological change (RBTC) hypothesis. In other words, our results show that the impact of digitalization on employment is mediated by the level of routineness characterizing the tasks bundled in each occupation.

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  • Cirillo, Valeria & Evangelista, Rinaldo & Guarascio, Dario & Sostero, Matteo, 2021. "Digitalization, routineness and employment: An exploration on Italian task-based data," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(7).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:50:y:2021:i:7:s0048733320301578
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2020.104079
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