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Off the Waterfront: The Long-run Impact of Technological Change on Dock Workers

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Abstract

We investigate how individual workers and local labour markets adjust over a long time period to a discrete and plausibly exogenous technological shock, namely the introduction of containerisation in the UK port industry. This technology, which was introduced rapidly between the mid-1960s and the late-1970s, had dramatic consequences for specific occupations within the port industry. Using longitudinal micro-census data we follow dock-workers over a 40 year period and examine the long-run consequences of containerisation for patterns of employment, migration and mortality. The results show that the job guarantees protected dock-workers’ employment until their removal in 1989. A matched comparison of workers in com- parable unskilled occupations reveals that, even after job guarantees were removed, dock-workers did not fare worse than the comparison group in terms of their labour market outcomes. Our results suggest that job guarantees may significantly reduce the cost to workers of sudden technological change, albeit at a significant cost to the industry.

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  • El-Sahli, Zouheir & Upward, Richard, 2015. "Off the Waterfront: The Long-run Impact of Technological Change on Dock Workers," Working Papers 2015:11, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2015_011
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    Cited by:

    1. Janssen, Simon & Mohrenweiser, Jens, 2018. "The Shelf Life of Incumbent Workers during Accelerating Technological Change: Evidence from a Training Regulation Reform," IZA Discussion Papers 11312, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Daniel M. Bernhofen & Zouheir El-Sahli & Richard Kneller, 2016. "The Impact of Technological Change on New Trade: Evidence from the Container Revolution," CESifo Working Paper Series 6069, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    containerisation; labour markets; England and Wales; dock workers; technological change.;

    JEL classification:

    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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