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Upgrading or polarization? Occupational change in Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, 1990-2008

Author

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  • Oesch, Daniel
  • Rodriguez Menes, Jorge

Abstract

We analyze the pattern of occupational change over the last two decades in Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland: which jobs have been expanding – high-paid jobs, low-paid jobs or both? Based on individual-level data, we examine what hypothesis is most consistent with the observed change: skill-biased technical change, routinization, skill supply evolution or wage-setting institutions? Our analysis reveals massive occupational upgrading that closely matches educational expansion: employment expanded most at the top of the occupational hierarchy, among managers and professionals. In parallel, mid-range occupations (clerks and production workers) declined relative to those at the bottom (interpersonal service workers). This U-shaped pattern of upgrading is consistent with the routinization hypothesis: technology seems a better substitute for average-paid clerical and manufacturing jobs than for low-end service employment. Yet country differences in low-paid service job creation suggest that wage-setting institutions play an important role, channelling technological change into more or less polarized patterns of upgrading.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:21040
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/21040/1/MPRA_paper_21040.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Freeman, Richard & Schettkat, Ronald, 2001. "Skill Compression, Wage Differentials, and Employment: Germany vs the US," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 582-603, July.
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    8. Frank Levy & Peter Temin, 2007. "Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America," NBER Working Papers 13106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Acemoglu, Daron, 2001. "Good Jobs versus Bad Jobs," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 1-21, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    employment; labour market institutions; technological change; inequality; occupations;

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • P52 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Studies of Particular Economies

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