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Automation, skill requirements and labour-use strategies: high-wage and low-wage approaches to high-tech manufacturing in the automotive industry


  • Krzywdzinski, Martin


In light of debates about advanced manufacturing and concepts like Industrie 4.0, this article compares labour‐use strategies in highly automated automotive supplier plants in a high‐wage country (Germany) and a low‐wage region (Central Eastern Europe). It shows considerable differences regarding skill requirements on the shop floor and the use of precarious employment contracts and examines three potential factors that explain them: national institutional frameworks, the power of employee representatives and the role of the plant within the companies and value chains. The analysis shows that the labour‐use strategies depend less on process technologies per se, but rather on the institutional framework and the role of the factory in the rollout and ramp‐up of new products and new process technologies. Such a role requires close cooperation between employees in the manufacturing areas and in product development, which in turn requires particularly high skills. The role of employee representatives in influencing labour‐use strategies proves less important. The article uses quantitative data from a survey of employee representatives, as well as qualitative data from in‐depth company case studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Krzywdzinski, Martin, 2017. "Automation, skill requirements and labour-use strategies: high-wage and low-wage approaches to high-tech manufacturing in the automotive industry," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 247-267.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:espost:199008

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning & Anna Salomons, 2014. "Explaining Job Polarization: Routine-Biased Technological Change and Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(8), pages 2509-2526, August.
    2. Lippert, Inge & Huzzard, Tony & Jurgens, Ulrich & Lazonick, William, 2014. "Corporate Governance, Employee Voice, and Work Organization: Sustaining High-Road Jobs in the Automotive Supply Industry," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199681075.
    3. Lawrence F. Katz & Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Technical Change and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor: The United States in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 15-57, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Sabine Pfeiffer, 2016. "Robots, Industry 4.0 and Humans, or Why Assembly Work Is More than Routine Work," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(2), pages 1-26, May.
    5. Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, 2016. "Digitization of industrial work: development paths and prospects [Digitalisierung industrieller Arbeit: Entwicklungspfade und Perspektiven]," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(1), pages 1-14, July.
    6. Giuseppe Calabrese, 2001. "R&D globalisation in the car industry," International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(1), pages 145-159.
    7. Maloney,William F. & Molina,Carlos A., 2016. "Are automation and trade polarizing developing country labor markets, too ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7922, The World Bank.
    8. Duncan Gallie, 1991. "Patterns of Skill Change: Upskilling, Deskilling or the Polarization of Skills?," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 5(3), pages 319-351, September.
    9. Pfeiffer, Sabine, 2016. "Robots, Industry 4.0 and humans, or why assembly work is more than routine work," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1-26.
    10. Oesch, Daniel & Rodriguez Menes, Jorge, 2010. "Upgrading or polarization? Occupational change in Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, 1990-2008," MPRA Paper 21040, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
    12. repec:gam:jsoctx:v:6:y:2016:i:2:p:16:d:69337 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Giancarlo Corò & Monica Plechero & Francesco Rullani & Mario Volpe, 2020. "The Evolution of Technological Space and Firms’ Workforce Composition in a Manufacturing Region," Working Papers 2020:12, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".


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