Journal for Labour Market Research

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 185–199

The “task approach” to labor markets: an overview



An emerging literature argues that changes in the allocation of workplace “tasks” between capital and labor, and between domestic and foreign workers, has altered the structure of labor demand in industrialized countries and fostered employment polarization—that is, rising employment in the highest and lowest paid occupations. Analyzing this phenomenon within the canonical production function framework is challenging, however, because the assignment of tasks to labor and capital in the canonical model is essentially static. This essay sketches an alternative model of the assignment of skills to tasks based upon comparative advantage, reviews key conceptual and practical challenges that researchers face in bringing the “task approach” to the data, and cautions against two common pitfalls that pervade the growing task literature. I conclude with a cautiously optimistic forecast for the potential of the task approach to illuminate the interactions among skill supplies, technological capabilities, and trade and offshoring opportunities, in shaping the aggregate demand for skills, the assignment of skills to tasks, and the evolution of wages.

Der „TASKS-Ansatz“ für Arbeitsmärkte: ein Überblick


In einer wachsenden Literatur wird die Auffassung vertreten, dass Veränderungen in der Zuweisung von Arbeitsplatzaufgaben (tasks) zwischen Kapital und Arbeit und zwischen in- und ausländischen Arbeitskräften die Struktur der Arbeitskräftenachfrage in den Industrieländern verändert und eine Polarisierung von Beschäftigung gefördert hat – d.h. steigende Beschäftigungszahlen in den best- und schlechtestbezahlten Berufen. Eine Analyse dieses Phänomens im Rahmen der gängigen Produktionsfunktion ist jedoch schwierig, da die Zuweisung von Aufgaben zu Arbeit und Kapital in diesem Modell im Wesentlichen statisch ist. Dieses Essay skizziert ein Alternativmodell zur Zuweisung von Kompetenzen zu Aufgaben basierend auf dem komparativem Vorteil, bespricht wichtige konzeptionelle und praktische Schwierigkeiten, vor denen Forscher stehen, wenn sie den „TASKS-Ansatz“ in Daten übertragen wollen und warnt vor zwei gängigen Fallstricken, die die immer stärker wachsende Literatur zu diesem Thema durchziehen. Ich schließe mit einer vorsichtig optimistischen Vorhersage für die Möglichkeiten des TASKS-Ansatzes zur Erläuterung der Interaktionen zwischen Angebot an Kompetenzen, technologischem Potenzial und Handels- und Offshoringmöglichkeiten in der Gestaltung der aggregierten Nachfrage nach Kompetenzen, der Zuweisung von Kompetenzen zu Aufgaben und der Entwicklung von Löhnen.


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Copyright information

© Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIT Department of EconomicsCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.NBER, IZA and IABCambridgeUSA

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