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THE POLARISATION OF EMPLOYMENT

16 April 2015

The structure of the Labour Market has changed since the Industrial Revolution.

 

A large number of easily-automated routine tasks have gradually been taken over by machines, with the result that jobs held by moderately-skilled individuals, which are largely carried out based on instructions and procedures, have been phased out.

Conversely, low-skilled jobs that require social intervention (personal assistance, etc.) remain fully integrated within the landscape of the labour market and are generally experiencing a rise in the number of jobs being created due to the ever-increasing demand in this sector.

At the other end of the skills spectrum, jobs requiring expertise, largely in the corporate services sector (IT, legal, financial, etc.) are also seeing their numbers increase.

A number of studies have shown that rather than a change in the global number of jobs being created, the real change has been to the distribution of skills.

Highly industrialised countries have been particularly hard hit by this trend, which is becoming more accentuated due to the impact of the import of manufactured goods in these countries.

There is a great deal of variation between regions and/or countries, however it is primarily the industrialised countries that are today feeling the effects of this phenomenon.

This does not, however, mean that these issues are not shared by every country.

Even countries that have remained relatively unscathed up to now, due to their low level of industrialisation, are affected by these issues. Their capitals and large cities are experiencing a widening of the gap between populations with a sufficient level of education to enable them to access the highly-skilled jobs that are being created in the tertiary sector and those who have unfortunately been unable to access education and can only be employed in unskilled or low-skilled jobs.

This observation is often reinforced in these countries as a result of the heavy weighting of the informal sector, which is further widening the gap for a group of people who are not just being limited to low-skilled jobs, but are also experiencing difficulties linked to their status.

In general, this concentration of jobs at the extremes of the skills spectrum results in the polarisation of income, as highly-skilled jobs are generally better paid than those requiring fewer skills.

It is fairly easy to imagine the impacts that this trend, which will become significantly more pronounced in the future, will have. One of the most striking of these many impacts is undoubtedly the development of inequalities within our modern societies.

Although this trend has shown itself to be almost inevitable, it should still be possible to implement strategies to limit its effect.

The 10th WAPES World Congress, which is due to take place in Istanbul between 6 and 8 May 2015, will provide the participants with an opportunity to discuss this topic, enabling them to not only share their views, but to also identify the actions that need to be taken.

 

Christine Malecka-Vlérick - WAPES 2015