EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

What do Europeans do at work?

Just published, the European Jobs Monitor 2016 annual report includes a new set of indicators describing what European workers do at work in terms of tasks, methods and the tools used. Derived from international databases on work and occupations, these indicators provide valuable new insights on the recent evolution of European labour markets, as well as a better understanding of labour input in the production process. One key finding is that in recent years, while routine task methods have shrunk in structural terms (because the most routine occupations employ declining numbers due to computerisation or offshoring), at the same time traditionally non-routine occupations have become considerably more routinised.

Why might this be occurring? Some tentative explanations are that the increasing use of computers at work requires an increasing degree of standardisation in labour input. Possibly, the use of computers can also routinise work by allowing a tighter control and monitoring of the labour process.

Why might this more pervasive routinisation of work be important? To date, the jobs most affected by structural change in developed economies have tended to be either in the bottom or the middle of the wage distribution. To the extent that there is increasing standardisation of the labour process in many highly skilled occupations this may increase the chances of these occupations being replaced by machines in a not so distant future.

Updated June 2016