Innovation, Workers Skills and Industrial Relations: Empirical Evidence from Firm-level Italian Data
The shifting of labour demand towards relatively more skilled workers has been a hot issue in the economic field for many years. A consolidated explanation for the upskilling phenomenon is that technological-organisational changes have driven the labour demand with detrimental consequences for less skilled workers (skill-biased technological-organisational change). In order to upgrade the skill workforce the firm has at least two main channels at its disposal: the external labour market strategy, mainly based on hiring and firing mechanisms; the internal labour market strategies, which improve the skill base of the employees through training activities. The main objective of the present work is to verify the relations between innovative strategies and both the workforce composition and the training activities, within an integrated framework that also leads us to consider the role of specific aspects of the industrial relations system. The firm level analysis is based on original datasets which include data on manufacturing firms for two Italian local production systems, located in the Emilia-Romagna region. The results suggest that the firms use both the two channels to improve their skill base, which is actually related to the innovation activities, although there is weak supporting evidence of the use of external labour markets to upgrade the workforce skills: the upskilling phenomenon seems to be associated to specific innovative activities in the technological sphere, while specific organisational aspects emerge as detrimental for blue collars. On the side of internal labour market strategies the evidence supports the hypothesis that innovation intensity induce the firms to implement internal procedures in order to upskill the workforce, confirming the importance of internal labour market strategies. Moreover, we have recognized the important role of firm level industrial relations in determining the training activities for the blue collar workers.
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