Working Paper No. 1123

Job Polarization, Job Tasks and the Role of Firms

Published: May 16, 2016Pages: 12Keywords: Job polarization; Job tasks; Routinization; Automation; Matched employer-employee dataJEL-codes: J24; J31; O33
Published version

Job Polarization, Job Tasks and the Role of Firms Fredrik Heyman


A large and growing empirical literature has presented evidence of job polarization, i.e. the simultaneous growth of high-wage jobs and low-wage jobs at the expense of middle-wage jobs. Thus far, the focus has been on employment in different occupations, without taking into account the role of firms in the labor demand process.

The purpose of this paper is to bridge this knowledge gap by explicitly analyzing how firms influence the current process of job polarization. Using detailed Swedish matched employer-employee data for the 1997–2013 period, we present novel evidence on within-firm job polarization. Applying a decomposition framework, we also find that both within-firm and between-firm components are important for overall job polarization.

We also show how the within-firm pattern is related to explanations for job polarization that have been proposed, i.e. the influence of routine-based technological change and the offshorability and automation of jobs. The results indicate that routineness of jobs seems to be the most important factor behind the observed pattern of within-firm job polarization.

Fredrik Heyman

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Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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