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How is New Technology Changing Job Design? An Economist's Perspective

IZA World of Labor, March 2017

In a recent article published in the official website of IZA (Institute of Labor Economics) World of Labor, Michael Gibbs, a professor of economics from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, discussed about the changes that new technology is bringing about to the workplace from an economist's perspective.

In the article, Professor Gibbs discussed about the pros and cons of new technology to job design. He made a brilliant point that:

"Technology sometimes complements employees by increasing their ability to perform certain tasks, and sometimes substitutes employees by automating some or all of their tasks. It thus changes job design by refocusing the employee on tasks that are difficult to automate, and eliminating tasks that are easy to automate."

He further analyzed what types of tasks would be more difficult to automate, pointing out that some non-routine tasks and manual tasks, and most cognitive and social tasks have proven difficult to automate. As such, he argued that "the effect of technology on job design rests on a substitute–complement continuum".

He also discussed about some other effects of technological change on job design. A notable idea he suggested, which may be interesting to management scholars, was that "technology leads to greater centralization in some jobs, and makes it possible to monitor and assess employees in new ways".

Besides, Professor Gibbs also discussed about the effects of new technology on labor market polaritzation and the extent of future change. He also offered advice to policy makers as to how to embrace the changes that new technology is bringing about to today's work.

Click here for the full article.

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