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Pathfinding Paper

Technology and the Task Content of Jobs across the Development Spectrum

Julieta Caunedo, Elisa Keller, and Yongseok Shin

Technology is the driver of labour allocation across sectors and occupations. Is the impact of technological change on developing countries similar to its impact on developed countries? Will developing countries follow the same development path that developed economies have taken? Our approach focuses on how technology shifts and reshapes the tasks workers perform on the job, and views occupations as the natural observable stand-in for these tasks. We first take stock of our knowledge on how technological change reallocates labour. We then construct a new measure of occupational task contents for each country and present new evidence on countries’ task intensity. In the cross section,developed countries use non-routine analytical and interpersonal tasks more intensively than developing countries, but less intensively use routine-cognitive and routine-manual tasks. Both the occupational employment share and the occupational task contents of a country matter for these relationships. In the time dimension, countries with high initial task intensities experienced a decline in these intensities, suggesting convergence in task intensities across countries. Our results show that occupational task content sought to be measured for each country for proper analysis. More broadly, we should not simply extrapolate what we know about the impact of technology on the labour market in developed countries to developing countries.

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