What has been happening to occupational quality?

Highlights from Research Brief 2:

  • In general, the more an occupation pays, the better its overall job quality. However, there are many interesting exceptions to this. For instance, we identify a group of ‘artisan occupations’ that are some of the lowest-paid but have modest overall job quality (such as beauticians, clergy, hairdressers, pub landlords, and bakers).
  • Conversely, we also identify a group of ‘routine professionals’ that are some of the highest-paid but have only modest overall job quality (mainly related to finance, law, IT, and various other licensed professions).
  • When defining the occupational quality structure in terms of overall job quality and not just pay, we find no evidence the labour market has polarized in the last three decades.
  • In general, the occupational quality structure has been upgrading through an expansion in the highest quality occupations and decline in lower quality occupations. However, the pace of upgrading has stalled in the last 15 years.
  • In general, the lowest quality occupations are most at risk of automation, with the highest quality occupations having the lowest risk, implying a potentially positive evolution in the occupational structure with respect to overall job quality.
  • However, job quality has been getting worse in three critical respects across the occupational spectrum. Work has been getting more routine, more controlled, and more intense for all workers.
  • Depending on the extent to which displaced workers can smoothly transition into growing higher-quality occupations, a potentially more urgent issue is the declining intrinsic job quality of all workers.

The full brief can be read here.

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