Technology and Changes in Skill Structure: Evidence from an International Panel of Industries

CEPR Discussion Paper Series 1434

Posted: 25 Sep 1996  

Stephen J. Machin

University College London - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Annette Ryan

University College London

John Van Reenen

London School of Economics - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); Stanford Graduate School of Business; Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: July 1996

Abstract

This paper examines the evidence that rapid upgrading of the skill structure in recent years was driven by technological change. Four countries are examined who have had different wage inequality and unemployment trends--Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The analysis of changes in wage bill shares and employment shares of more skilled workers leads us to the following conclusions: 1) within-industry changes are the driving force of aggregate shifts across all four countries; 2) there is evidence of skill-biased technical change and capital-skill complementarity in all four countries; 3) the results are robust to using education instead of occupation as a measure of skill and computerization instead of R & D as a measure of technology; 4) in the Anglo-Saxon countries a maximum of one-third of the aggregate change in the skill structure can be accounted for purely by technological factors; 5) the decline of collective bargaining, rather than trade, in the United Kingdom and the United States is an important factor in explaining the changes.

JEL Classification: J51, O33

Suggested Citation

Machin, Stephen J. and Ryan, Annette and Van Reenen, John, Technology and Changes in Skill Structure: Evidence from an International Panel of Industries (July 1996). CEPR Discussion Paper Series 1434. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3350

Stephen J. Machin (Contact Author)

University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

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Annette Ryan

University College London

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John Michael Van Reenen

London School of Economics - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

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Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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