The Skills of European ICT Specialists

The Skills of European ICT Specialists

Francesca Sgobbi (University of Brescia, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch415
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After a brief survey of the international literature on skill-related issues that may either support or threaten the further development of ICT-based applications this article provides a picture of the state-of-the-art of the professional skills supplied by ICT specialists in 11 EU countries based on data from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills. The first part of the empirical analysis focuses on the skills profile of ICT personnel from EU countries and examines to what extent the higher skills displayed by ICT specialists depend on a different distribution of demographic characteristics and job characteristics compared to the rest of the workforce. The second part of the empirical analysis focuses on the relationship between skills and wages and tests whether employers recognize an occupation-specific wage premium to ICT specialists. The results of the proposed empirical analyses confirm the existence of significant differences between skill profiles and earnings determinants of ICT specialists compared to other workers.
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Pervasiveness characterizes ICT solutions as general purpose technologies, i.e., technologies whose innovative applications impact everyday household life besides spanning across different business sectors (Jovanovic and Rousseau, 2005). This pervasiveness rose hopes that ICT-based innovations would stimulate cross-industry virtuous circles between investments, innovation, productivity, consumption, and employment able to solve the “jobless growth dilemma” apparent in the USA and the EU in the 1990s (Selhofer, 2000). However, the complementarities between existing and new technologies (Davis and Wright, 1999) and the lack of digital skills among ICT providers and end users soon pointed out risks that skill shortage may obstacle the achievement of expected benefits (Selhofer, 2000).

After twenty years of debate on the occupational effects of ICTs the picture is still unclear. Spiezia et al. (2016) suggest that ICTs cause a drop in labor content per unit, hence reducing the demand for labor, but at the same time they raise labor productivity, hence increasing the convenience of labor compared to other productivity factors. Overall effects on labor demand are expected to disappear in the long run, due to a reallocation of labor from traditional sectors to innovative, ICT-intensive ones. Nevertheless, the current framework is still undergoing adjustment processes. Investments in ICTs raised the demand for labor in OECD countries between 1990 and 2007, but reduced it afterwards (Spiezia et al., 2016). In addition, after 2007 the decline in labor demand has been accompanied by polarization between high-skilled and poorly-skilled jobs at the expense of middle-educated workers (Michaels et al., 2014). Job polarization happens because, due to their programmable nature, ICTs tend to substitute labor in case of routine tasks, which prevail among middle-skilled workers. In contrast, knowledge-intensive non-routine tasks concentrate among high-skilled employees whereas labor-intensive non-routine tasks, often concerning the provision of personal services, prevail among low-skilled workers (Autor et al., 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

PIAAC Survey: International assessment of the competences of adult population run in in 22 OECD countries in 2012 within the wider Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

ICT Specialist: A professional who has the ability to develop, operate, and maintain ICT systems and for whom ICTs constitute the main part of the job.

Cognitive Skills: Intrinsic individual characteristics that can be measured by achievement tests and taught in formal educational or training programs.

Job Polarization: Concentration of labor demand towards jobs in the high and the low tails of skills requirements distribution.

ICTs: Information and Communication Technologies. ICTs comprise methods and systems to transfer, archive, retrieve, and elaborate information, digital information included.

Skill Shortage: Difficulty to fill open vacancies due to lack of candidates endowed with relevant skills.

Soft Skills: Intrinsic individual characteristics hardly measurable by achievement tests. Soft skills are broadly applicable across different job titles, occupations, and industries.

Skills for the Digital Economy: Skills to develop, use, and manage ICT-based products and processes in business and household life.

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