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We can work it out: the impact of technological change on the demand for low skill workers

  • Alan Manning

There is little doubt that technology has had the most profound effect on altering the tasks that we humans do in our jobs. Economists have long speculated on how technical change affects both the absolute demand for labour as a whole and the relative demands for different types of labour. In recent years, the idea of skill-biased technical change has become the consensus view about the current impact of technology on labour demand, namely that technical change leads to an increase in the demand for skilled relative to unskilled labour painting a bleak future for the employment prospects of less-skilled workers. But, drawing on a recent paper by Autor, Levy and Murnane (2003) about the impact of technology on the demand for different types of skills, this paper argues that the demand in the least-skilled jobs may be growing. But, it is argued that employment of the less-skilled is increasingly dependent on physical proximity to the moreskilled and may also be vulnerable in the long-run to further technological developments.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/19948/
File Function: Open access version.
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 19948.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19948
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Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/

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  1. van den Berg, G. & Gautier, P.A. & van Ours, J.C. & Ridder, G., 1998. "Worker turnover at the firm level and crowding out of lower educated workers," Discussion Paper 98.104, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Human Capital Spillovers in Manufacturing: Evidence from Plant-Level Production Functions," NBER Working Papers 9316, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  4. Acemoglu, Daron, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809, October.
  5. Ciccone, Antonio & Peri, Giovanni, 2002. "Identifying Human Capital Externalities: Theory with an Application to US Cities," CEPR Discussion Papers 3350, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain The Rising Return To College For Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746, May.
  7. Leontief, Wassily & Duchin, Faye, 1986. "The Future Impact of Automation on Workers," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195036237.
  8. Nickell, S. & Komg, P., 1989. "Technical Progress And Jobs," Papers 366, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
  9. Teulings, Coen & Koopmanschap, Marc, 1989. "An econometric model of crowding out of lower education levels," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1653-1664, October.
  10. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284635.
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