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Computerization, labor productivity and employment: impacts across industries vary with technological level

Ch-M. Chevalier and A. Luciani
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Ch-M. Chevalier: Insee-Crest
A. Luciani: Insee

Documents de Travail de l'Insee - INSEE Working Papers from Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques

Abstract: Technical progress notably through computerization raises concerns about the future of labor. In parallel, productivity became sluggish in many developed countries and computers are everywhere but not in all productivity statistics, especially not among non IT producing manufacturing industries in the United States (Acemoglu, Autor, Dorn, Hanson, and Price, 2014). To observe whether job losses and missing labor productivity gains from computerization are localized in the same part of the manufacturing sector, this paper delves into targeted disaggregated focuses in France between 1994 and 2007. As computers can be used as complements or substitutes for labor depending on the (non-) routine nature of tasks, we concentrate on low-tech vs. mid/high tech industries and on high-skilled vs. low-skilled workers. Our main results are the following. Contrary to the United States, labor productivity is not driven to a large extent by IT-producing industries. Yet, for the whole IT-using manufacturing sector, computerization is associated with positive but fragile effects on labor productivity, and to unambiguous declines in employment. Actually, a labor saving effect of computerization is massively concentrated among industries relying on low production technology. For mid/high-tech IT-using industries, evidence is less straightforward on labor productivity. Among them, computerization is not associated to job cuts whatever the job type, and is related to a rise in the share of high-skilled workers. In the end, computerization could go in hand in hand with economy wide structural changes, with strong productivity improvements in declining sectors and labor deepening in rising ones.

Keywords: labor productivity; computerization; capital-labor substitution and complementarity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J2 L60 O3 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eff
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