Training and age-biased technical change
Can an ageing labour force sustain rapid technical and organisational changes? This depends on the ability of older workers to adapt their skills through training. Using a matched employer-employee dataset on the French manufacturing sector in the 1990s, we investigate whether training incidence increases in response to technical and organisational changes, and whether this response varies with age. In low-skill occupations, workers older than 50 suffer from reduced training incidence when firms implement advanced information technologies, in sharp contrast with the increased training incidence among workers younger than 50. But training responses are not systematically unfavourable to older workers; in particular, new organisational practices tend to raise training incidence among all groups of workers, regardless of age and occupation. The results hold when controlling for workers’ selection and when using instrumental variables to take into account the endogenous use of new technologies and new organisational practices. These findings confirm that technical change is biased against older low-skilled workers. But they also suggest that older age and a shorter career horizon do not constitute a systematic barrier to training. The difficulties faced by older low-skill workers born in the 1940s may rather be due to the fact that they lack the basic computer literacy that is a prerequisite for training in advanced IT.
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