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Educational intensity of employment and polarisation in Europe and the US

EUROSTAT Methodologies and Working paper

Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2010
ISSN 1977-0375

Recent work in the labour economics literature has focused on the polarisation of jobs as a source of growing income inequality in the US and some countries in Europe. The hypothesis is that the growth in employment and corresponding employment shares over the past decades has been in jobs at the low and high ends of the skill distribution, with declines in employment shares in the middle. The underlying distributions of jobs and skills, the educational intensity of employment, is the focus of the present paper. Using data from the EU-Survey of Income and Living Conditions, we present a descriptive analysis of the distributions of skills (measured by educational attainment) and employment shares for a sample of countries in the EU in 2007, and compare the results with the US. We also examine the extent to which demographic groups in Europe differ in their distributions of employment across the skill deciles, and provide preliminary evidence of changes in the educational intensity of employment over the 2004-007 period. Our results indicate that the distributions of skills exhibit similar patterns with the US for a combined sample of countries in the EU, although there are different patterns found among the countries. We also find evidence of small changes in employment shares over time, consistent with the polarisation hypothesis. 

author(s): European Commission, Eurostat
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