UNDERSTANDING TECHNOLOGICAL INEQUALITIES
Stockholm University (lead), European University Instititute, Maastricht University, Tallinn University
How are social inequalities related to technological innovations? Ample evidence suggests that tech revolutions will change inequalities. The income distribution will change and classic determinants of social status (social background, educational credentials, and skills) change? Workers that cannot master the skills required to work with machines in their occupations will likely experience downward social mobility, by becoming unemployed, inactive, or by accepting jobs below their education level.
Technology-driven downward mobility is usually associated with people in lower-skilled routine jobs and middle-income service sector jobs. However, the actual impact of AI and robots may be felt throughout the labour market and may also affect higher educated workers, and even (semi-) professionals whose educational credentials and successful occupational closure have long secured a safe spot in societies’ middle (e.g. clerks, trained nurses) and upper middle classes (e.g. lawyers notaries,, medical doctors, accountants, business analysts). Professionals may see their work simplified but also risk downward mobility.
Empirical evidence for these developments is wanting, and the question remains to what extent social inequalities in European countries are related to technological developments, and how this can be explained. This project will answer this question by empirically testing the continued relevance of the well-known sociological and economic theories, and determine the role of the increased importance of skills for theories of social inequality.