Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Job Skill Requirements: Levels and Trends

Handel, Michael J. (2020): Job Skill Requirements: Levels and Trends.

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Abstract

This background paper for MIT’s Work of the Future report (2020) reviews what is known about trends in job skill requirements. The paper reviews issues related to the conceptualization and measurement of job skill requirements and the state of existing data before discussing recent rich cross-sectional data and more variable trend data for both the United States and other OECD countries. In general, the data on current levels of skill demand are at variance with the more extreme views that emphasize the prevalence of high-tech jobs or other kinds of “knowledge work.” Trends are consistently gradual on their face and often flatter in the previous ten to twenty years relative to previous decades—there is no consistent evidence that trends have accelerated markedly since 1980, and the dominant impression is continuity rather than discontinuity. Information technology changes very rapidly, but work roles and the occupational structure change gradually and will likely to continue to do so in the future. The data on current levels of job skill demands and recent trends help provide a frame of reference for evaluating predictions regarding future changes in job skill requirements.

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