The Exposure to Routinization: Labor Market Implications for Developed and Developing Economies
40 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018
Date Written: June 2018
Evidence that the automation of routine tasks has contributed to the polarization of labor markets hasbeen documented for many developed economies, but little is known about its incidence in developingeconomies. We propose a measure of the exposure to routinization-that is, the risk of the displacementof labor by information technology-and assemble several facts that link the exposure to routinizationwith the prospects of polarization. Drawing on exposures for about 85 countries since 1990, we establishthat: (1) developing economies are significantly less exposed to routinization than their developedcounterparts; (2) the initial exposure to routinization is a strong predictor of the long-run exposure; and(3) among countries with high initial exposures to routinization, polarization dynamics have been strongand subsequent exposures have fallen; while among those with low initial exposure, the globalization oftrade and structural transformation have prevailed and routine exposures have risen. Although we findlittle evidence of polarization in developing countries thus far, with rapidly rising exposures toroutinization, the risks of future labor market polarization have escalated with potentially significantconsequences for productivity, growth and distribution.
Keywords: Labor markets, Globalization, Income distribution, Information technology, Employment, Developing countries, Wages, Labor force, Polarization, routine occupations, automation, structural transformation, inequality, General, Trade and Labor Market Interactions, Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure, Technological Change: Choices and Consequences
JEL Classification: E00, F16, J00, J21, O33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation