Conference Paper BHPS-2007 Conference: the 2007 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 5 July -7 July 2007, Colchester, UK
Occupational flexibility: the career trajectories of IT workers -abstract-
Job tenure varies by occupation. It has been argued that some of this variation has to do with technological change. This is likely to result in rising demands for particular skills. Those with such skills can exploit the resulting market shortage and shop round for the best employer over time, leading to above-average intraorganisational mobility. Such ‘boundaryless’ careers imply a fairly stable commitment to the occupation, implicitly based on knowledge of the typical occupational career. IT specialists are an obvious example. However, it has also been argued that the technologies associated with some new skills are subject to rapid obsolescence either directly, or indirectly, through replacement by more cost-effective technologies or uses of technology, so that these occupations are in fact relatively unstable. In this case we would expect aboveaverage mobility in and out of the occupation. Using the British Household Panel and German Socio-Economic Panel, we examine the career trajectories of IT specialists over a number of years in order to chart the extent, causes and effects of career mobility. We argue that the occupations these workers occupy are subject to more occupational (rather than organisational) flux than the ‘boundaryless’ thesis implies, suggesting considerable uncertainty. While new recruitment from outside the occupation is high, it is no higher than for other comparable occupations.