DP3831 Changes in the Functional Structure of Firms and the Demand for Skill

Author(s): Eric Maurin, David Thesmar
Publication Date: March 2003
Keyword(s): skill, tasks, technological change
JEL(s): D23, J23, O33
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=3831

We describe and analyse the changes in the occupational structure of French manufacturing firms between 1984 and 1995. Firms employ a much greater proportions of engineers and researchers working on the design and marketing of new products and a much lower proportion of high-skilled experts working in administration-related activities. Firms have also reduced the share of production-related activities at both the levels of high-skilled and low-skilled workers. We develop a very simple labour demand model that shows the role played by technological change. By reducing the costs of activities that are the easiest to program in advance (notably for product fabrication), new information technologies make it possible to allocate more human and material resources to the activities that are the most difficult to program in advance, notably for the conception and marketing of new products. We show that this is the main channel through which new information technologies increase the demand for skill.