The who and how of disappearing routine jobs
Matias Cortes, Nir Jaimovich, Christopher J. Nekarda, Henry Siu 02 October 2014
As routine tasks are increasingly automated, middle-wage jobs are becoming rarer. This column documents the changes in labour-market dynamics behind this polarisation, and investigates which workers are affected by it. Flows into middle-wage routine jobs are declining (rather than flows out increasing). Interestingly, routine cognitive workers – who tend to be educated women – are benefiting from this hollowing-out by moving up the occupational ladder.
Labour markets around the world have experienced a profound polarisation in recent decades. The share of employment in middle-wage jobs has declined, while employment in high- and low-wage jobs has increased. In the US, this ‘hollowing out of the middle’ has been linked to declining per-capita employment in occupations with a high content of routine tasks – activities that can be performed by following a well-defined set of procedures and are therefore relatively easy to automate (Autor et al. 2006, Goos et al. 2014).
labour market polarisation, routine and non-routine tasks, cognitive and non-cognitive tasks
Job polarisation and the decline of middle-class workers’ wages
Michael Boehm 08 February 2014
Employment in traditional middle-class jobs has fallen sharply over the last few decades. At the same time, middle-class wages have been stagnant. This column reviews recent research on job polarisation and presents a new study that explicitly links job polarisation with the changes in workers' wages. Job polarisation has a substantial negative effect on middle-skill workers.
The decline of the middle class has come to the forefront of debate in the US and Europe in recent years. This decline has two important components in the labour market. First, the number of well-paid middle-skill jobs in manufacturing and clerical occupations has decreased substantially since the mid-1980s. Second, the relative earnings for workers around the median of the wage distribution dropped over the same period, leaving them with hardly any real wage gains in nearly 30 years.
Labour markets Poverty and income inequality
jobs, middle class, labour, routine and non-routine tasks