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Digitalisation, automation, and the Portuguese labour market

Luis Manso e Rui Roberto Ramos, Collaborative Laboratory for Labour, Employment and Social Protection (CoLABOR); Tiago Santos Pereira, Collaborative Laboratory for Labour, Employment and Social Protection (CoLABOR) & Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra (CES-UC);
Project selected in the “Technology and Society” Flash Call

The research on which this article is based addresses concerns regarding the impact of digital transformation (hereinafter referred to as digitalisation) on jobs and employment, with a focus on the Portuguese labour market. In order to explore the impact of digitalisation on the Portuguese workforce, the authors analysed survey data collected between April and July 2022 from a representative sample of 2,000 working-age employees in Portugal. They adopted a digital task-based approach to occupations and a routine-biased approach to technological change to examine how digitalisation, routineness and digital automation shape the Portuguese labour market. Digital automation refers particularly to the automation of work tasks that arise from the process of digital transformation. Two indices were developed that measure the level of digitalisation and routineness of occupations. The findings show that digitalisation is more prominent among high-skilled occupations. However, no relationship was found between routinisation and skills. The findings also indicate that technicians and clerical support workers (high- and medium-skilled, respectively) are most at risk of digital automation, representing approximately 22% of the Portuguese workforce in 2021. This supports the authors’ claim that digital automation is not necessarily a skill-biased phenomenon in Portugal.
Key points
  • 1
       Digitalisation is more prominent among high-skilled occupations: Digitalisation Index (DI) is above 0.5.
  • 2
       The apparent lack of relationship between routinisation and skills suggests that automation in Portugal is not necessarily skill-biased.
  • 3
       Most occupations have a relatively low risk of digital automation, either because tasks have low levels of digitalisation or because they are not very routinised: Digitalisation Index (DI) or Routineness Index (RI) are below 0.5.
  • 4
       Clerical support workers and technicians display the highest risk associated with digital automation: both Digitalisation Index (DI) and Routineness Index (RI) are above 0.5.

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