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Guest Speaker Seminar "The Polarization Myth: Europe Job Structure is Upgrading"

Guest Speaker Seminar "The Polarization Myth: Europe Job Structure is Upgrading"




"The Polarization Myth: Europe Job Structure is Upgrading"


Speaker: Daniel Oesch, Associate professor, Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lausanne.

Date: 21/01/2020

Time: 15.00 h

Place: room 40.S03 (Roger de Llúria building)



The consensus view is that labor markets are polarizing as job creation takes place in high-skilled and low-skilled occupations, while jobs shrink in mid-skilled ones. Polarization seems paradoxical because it runs counter to the trends that shaped the job structure over the last decades: skill-biased technical change, international division of labor and educational expansion. We resolve this paradox by showing that the empirical case for polarisation is weak for Western Europe. Based on the European Labor Force Survey 1992-2015, we analyze occupational change for Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK, defining occupations with four alternative indicators of job quality: earnings, education, prestige and job satisfaction. Job growth was by far strongest in occupations with high job quality and weakest in occupations with low quality, regardless of the indicator used. We find upgrading for Germany, Spain and Sweden. In the UK, we observe polarization when job quality is measured with earnings. In all four countries, production workers and office clerks lost ground, whereas employment expanded in the salaried (upper-)middle class among managers and professionals. It is therefore not the middle class, but the working class that is eroding.