Skill Relativities, Computers and Pay

Publication type

Conference Paper


Adapting Education and Training for the Enhancement of Low-skilled Jobs Conference


Publication date

May 24, 2002


The technology bias thesis assumes rising demand for skills and increasing rewards to the skilled over a long period of time. Education and training might be expected to fill this demand. At the same time, however, the social demand for educational qualifications might result in excess supply of education, with the result that qualifications become devalued. On the assumption that both effects actually exist, one might offset the other, leaving workers no better off in the aggregate. Nevertheless, even if this were the case the effects are unlikely to be the same for all employees. In the worst case, those lower down the educational and occupational hierarchy could suffer if they lack computer or other technical skills and at the same time suffer competition from people bumped down into their occupational stratum as a result of overqualification at higher levels. But this need not be the case. The actual empirical possibilities are examined with a cross-national dataset of 1750 people in five European countries and through analyses testing the effects on pay, first of computer usage at work and second of overqualification. The results suggest that computer technology might be the basis for workers in a fairly narrow range of occupations, in particular clerical, but of little real apparent benefit elsewhere. Overqualification, in contrast, is mostly a factor higher up the occupational hierarchy. Finally, any technology bias which exists does not appear to compensate for the effects of overqualification.

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