Book
Tasks, skills, and institutions

The changing nature of work and inequality


BOOK IN PRODUCTION – ESTIMATED FOR PUBLICATION IN SUMMER 2023

Developed countries have experienced a polarization in earnings and in employment, namely stronger growth in the earnings and jobs for the most and least skilled workers at the expense of those in the middle. This pattern has been attributed to differences in tasks—whether a given job is routine and can be automated or offshored—rather than skills and has reduced employment and incomes in typical middle-class jobs in manufacturing and services. Evidence for developing countries, however, is still scarce and faces bigger challenges, both conceptual and in terms of gathering the necessary data on earnings and task content of jobs.

Tasks, skills, and institutions presents the main results of the UNU-WIDER project, The changing nature of work and inequality, aiming to fill this knowledge gap and deconstruct the common assumption that occupations are identical around the world, which tends to lead to an overestimation of the non-routine task content of jobs in developing and emerging economies. Providing a unique, comparative assessment on how the nature of work is changing in 11 major developing countries, the book explores the role that these changes play in shaping earnings inequality in these societies. Moving past the most conventional explanations of changes in earnings inequality, based on the relative abundance of skilled and unskilled labour, the book explores recent theories that put the nature of tasks performed by workers in their jobs, rather than their skills, at the centre of the analysis.

With contributions from leading scholars in the field, the book provides a nuanced and context-sensitive developing-country perspective with an in-depth assessment of national trends in earnings inequality, as well as the changes in the occupational structure and the remuneration of tasks, while being mindful of broader macroeconomic trends and institutional developments.

Table of contents
  1. INTRODUCTION
    1. Introduction: the changing nature of work and inequality
    Carlos Gradín, Piotr Lewandowski, Simone Schotte and Kunal Sen
  2. 2. Data and methodology
    Carlos Gradín, Piotr Lewandowski, Simone Schotte and Kunal Sen
  3. CROSS-COUNTRY ANALYSIS
    3. Global divergence in the de-routinization of jobs
    Piotr Lewandowski, Albert Park and Simone Schotte
    More Working Paper | The global distribution of routine and non-routine work
  4. 4. Cross-country patterns in structural transformation and inequality in developing countries
    Carlos Gradín, Piotr Lewandowski, Simone Schotte and Kunal Sen
  5. COUNTRY STUDIES
    5. Ghana: employment and inequality trends
    Carlos Gradín and Simone Schotte
    More Working Paper | Implications of the changing nature of work for employment and inequality in Ghana
  6. 6. South Africa: employment and inequality trends
    Haroon Bhorat, Kezia Lilenstein, Morné Oosthuizen and Amy Thornton
    More Working Paper | Wage polarization in a high-inequality emerging economy
  7. 7. Tunisia: employment and inequality trends
    More Working Paper | Jobs, earnings, and routine-task occupational change in times of revolution
  8. 8. Bangladesh: employment and inequality trends
    Sayema Haque Bidisha, Tanveer Mahmood and Mahir A. Rahman
    More Working Paper | Earnings inequality and the changing nature of work
  9. 9. China: employment and inequality trends
    Chunbing Xing
    More Working Paper | The changing nature of work and earnings inequality in China
  10. 10. India: employment and inequality trends
    Saloni Khurana and Kanika Mahajan
    More Working Paper | Evolution of wage inequality in India (1983–2017)
  11. 11. Indonesia: employment and inequality trends
    Arief Anshory Yusuf and Putri Riswani Halim
    More Working Paper | Inequality and structural transformation in the changing nature of work
  12. 12. Argentina: employment and inequality trends
    Roxana Maurizio and Ana Paula Monsalvo
    More Working Paper | Changes in occupations and their task content
  13. 13. Brazil: employment and inequality trends
    Sergio Firpo, Alysson Portella, Flavio Riva and Giovanna Úbida
    More Working Paper | The changing nature of work and inequality in Brazil (2003–19)
  14. 14. Chile: employment and inequality trends
    Gabriela Zapata-Román
    More Working Paper | The role of skills and tasks in changing employment trends and income inequality in Chile
  15. 15. Peru: employment and inequality trends
    Paola Ballon and Jorge Dávalos
    More Working Paper | Inequality and the changing nature of work in Peru
  16. CONCLUSIONS
    16. Conclusions and policy implications
    Carlos Gradín, Piotr Lewandowski, Simone Schotte and Kunal Sen
Show all