The Evolution of Work

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Source: Alexandra Spitz, Are Skill Requirements in the Workplace Rising? Stylized Facts and Evidence on Skill-Biased Technological Change, Table 5.

Nice paper from Germany. Activities are classified in five skill categories: non-routine analytical tasks such as research, planning or evaluation activities; non-routine interactive tasks such as the coordination and delegation of work; routine cognitive tasks such as double-entry bookkeeping and calculating; routine manual tasks such as machine feeding or running a machine and non-routine manual tasks such as housekeeping or restoring houses.

What we are seeing here are the effect of two industrial revolutions.The first industrial revolution made it cheaper to make and transport things. The second, based on information technology, made it cheaper to manipulate and transport information. The first leads to a decrease in routine manual tasks, the second to a decrease in routine cognitive tasks.

We are left with non-routine manual jobs (when, oh when, will they come up with a device that can iron and fold clothes?), and jobs on the “ought” side of the is-ought divide. On the “ought” side, in the non-routine analytic and interactive jobs, we pay people for their judgments and preferences. Since these are based on trained emotional reactions, I don’t see any prospects at all for replacement of people by machines in these jobs.

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