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Computers and the changing skill-intensity of jobs

  • Francis Green
  • Alan Felstead
  • Duncan Gallie

This paper investigates the impact of computer usage at work and other job features on the changing skills required of workers. It compare skills utilization in Britain at three data points: 1986, 1992 and 1997, using proxies for the level of skills actually used in jobs. This study questions the validity of investigating the facts about, and the sources of, rising skills by using just educational attainment or occupational grouping data. This paper finds that: • Job skills have increased, more quickly for women than for men; these increases are more extensive than those captured by changes in the occupational class structure. • The spread of computer usage is very strongly associated with the process of upskilling, and accounts in part for narrowing of the gender skills gap; expanded use of quality circles is also linked to upskilling. • Evidence for any direct role of trade in inducing skills increases is weak. • Using the qualification held or occupation as a skills measure can lead to erroneous conclusions as to the origin of skills changes.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 35 (2003)
Issue (Month): 14 ()
Pages: 1561-1576

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Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:35:y:2003:i:14:p:1561-1576
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  1. Timothy F. Bresnahan, 1997. "Computerization and Wage Dispersion: An Analytical Reinterpretation," Working Papers 97031, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  2. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  4. David Autor & Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," Working Papers 756, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Haskel, Jonathan & Heden, Ylva, 1999. "Computers and the Demand for Skilled Labour: Industry- and Establishment-Level Panel Evidence for the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages C68-79, March.
  6. Wood, Adrian, 1998. "Globalisation and the Rise in Labour Market Inequalities," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1463-82, September.
  7. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 1994. "International Differences in Male Wage Inequality: Institutions versus Market Forces," NBER Working Papers 4678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Machin, Steve, 1994. "Changes in the Relative Demand for Skills in the UK Labour Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 952, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. E Leuven & Hessel Oosterbeek & H van Ophern, 1998. "Explaining International Differences in Male Wage Inequality by differences in Demand and Supply of Skill," CEP Discussion Papers dp0392, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  10. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  11. Entorf, Horst & Kramarz, Francis, 1997. "Does unmeasured ability explain the higher wages of new technology workers?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1489-1509, August.
  12. Francis Green, 1998. "The Value of Skills," Studies in Economics 9819, School of Economics, University of Kent.
  13. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Bruce Weinberg, 1998. "Computer Use and the Demand for Women Workers," Working Papers 98-06, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
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