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Special Issue "The Impact of Technological Change on Employment, Skills and Earnings"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Marco Vivarelli

Institute of Economic Policy, Catholic University, Milano, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +39-02-72342921
Fax: +39-02-72342921
Interests: economics of innovation; entrepreneurship; globalization; applied microeconometrics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, the notion of sustainable growth had to include the goal of avoiding the possible job losses and severe income inequalities brought about by the diffusion of the new technologies. In this context, this Special Issue will focus on the employment, skill/task and income impacts of current technological change, both in industrialized, emerging and developing countries.

In particular, nowadays, the massive implementation of ICT, artificial intelligence and robots has raised again a widespread fear of a new wave of “technological unemployment”. In this context, not only agricultural and manufacturing jobs appear at risk, but employees in services—including cognitive skills—are no longer safe. Finally, these recent trends have interlinked with the financial and economic crises and with the slow recovery afterwards, often showing a jobless nature.
This Special Issue welcomes full research articles—both theoretical and empirical—based on quantitative analysis, with a preference for mathematical modeling and robust and updated econometric analyses. The level of the analysis ranges from the macroeconomic, to the sectoral and the firm level.

Prof. Dr. Marco Vivarelli
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Technological change;

  • R&D;

  • product and process innovation;

  • technological unemployment;

  • skill-biased technological change;

  • task-biased technological change

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Task Characteristics and Work Engagement: Exploring Effects of Role Ambiguity and ICT Presenteeism
Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1855; doi:10.3390/su9101855
Received: 15 September 2017 / Revised: 3 October 2017 / Accepted: 6 October 2017 / Published: 16 October 2017
PDF Full-text (456 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
In order to secure organizational sustainability in a rapidly changing environment, it is necessary to implement a decentralized and flexible work environment. In such work environments, normally individuals are provided with autonomy and independence in performing tasks, thus allowing them to further engage
[...] Read more.
In order to secure organizational sustainability in a rapidly changing environment, it is necessary to implement a decentralized and flexible work environment. In such work environments, normally individuals are provided with autonomy and independence in performing tasks, thus allowing them to further engage in their given work. This study investigated task antecedents of work engagement, and further explored the process of how task characteristics affect work engagement. It focused on examining the mediating effect of role ambiguity on the task characteristics-work engagement relationship and the moderating effect of information and communication technology (ICT) presenteeism on the task characteristics–role ambiguity relationship through multiple regression analyses and a bootstrapping procedure on survey data collected from 202 South Korean employees. It found that task interdependence and autonomy were negatively associated with role ambiguity. Of the two task characteristics, only task interdependence had a negative relationship with role ambiguity, and this relationship was significantly moderated by ICT presenteeism such that the negative association between task interdependence and role ambiguity was more pronounced when ICT presenteeism was high than when it was low. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impact of Technological Change on Employment, Skills and Earnings)

Figure 1

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Opening the Black-box in Lifelong e-Learning for Employability: A Framework for a Socio-Technical E-learning Employability System of Measurement (STELEM)
Authors: Juan-Francisco Martínez-Cerdá, Joan Torrent-Sellens and Inés González
Abstract: Human beings must develop many skills to cope the large amount of challenges that currently exist in the world: media empowerment for an active and democratic citizenship, knowledge acquisition and conversion for lifelong and life-wide learning, 21st century skills for matching demand and supply in labor markets, and dispositional employability for unpredictable future career success. One of the tools for achieving them is online education, in which students have the chance to manage their own time, content, and goals. Thus, this chapter analyzes these issues from the perspective of skills gained through e-learning and validates the Socio-Technical E-learning Employability System of Measurement (STELEM) Framework. The research was carried out with former students of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Exploratory and confirmatory factorial analyses validate several consistent and reliable scales in two areas: i) employability, based on educational social capital, media empowerment, knowledge acquisition, knowledge conversion, literacy, digitalness, collaboration, resilience, proactivity, identity, openness, motivation, organizational culture, and employment security; and ii) socio-technical system existing in this open online university, based on its ICT, learning tasks, student-centered, and organizational approaches. The research provides two new psychometrical scales that are useful for evaluation, monitoring, and assessing of relationships and influences between socio-technical e-learning organizations and employability skills development, and proposes a set of indicators related with human and social capital, valid in employability contexts.

Title: The Economic Impact of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
Authors and Affiliations: Ben Vermeulen, University of Hohenheim; Pier-Paolo Saviotti, University of Utrecht and Andreas Pyka, University of Hohenheim
Abstract: Mankind is on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, in which robotics and artificial intelligence are expected to have disruptive effects on types of tasks performed by humans, the level of employment, real wages, and the income distribution. This review provides an overview of the ongoing discourse on the impact of diffusion and adoption of robotics and artificial intelligence on (i) shifts in tasks performed, skills required, and jobs done, (ii) employment dynamics and the role of education therein, and (iii) real wages, income distribution, and inequality. In addressing these three topics, we pit the “sector of application” perspective generally followed in literature against a structural change perspective with different types of sectors, both existing and emerging, all (in)directly affect. We also briefly discuss several policy interventions to overcome adverse effects of robotization and implementation of AI and to enhance the dynamic efficiency of structural change.

Title: The Causal Effects of Trade and Technology Transfer on Human Capital and Economic Growth in the United Arab Emirates
Author: Dr. Athanasia Kalaitzi
Affiliation: School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Campus, London, E1 4NS, UK
Abstract: Imports are considered to be a major channel for technology transfer and knowledge diffusion, which are essential to improving productivity and economic growth. In return, economic growth can cause an expansion of exports, especially of manufactures, which can offer knowledge spillovers and other externalities, creating virtuous circles of cumulative causation. However, some studies indicate that imports are considered to be a leakage of export revenues, which could lead to a lower rate of growth and unemployment. This research will empirically investigate the causality between new technologies (embodied in manufactured imports), human capital and economic growth in UAE, which is the most diversified economy in the GCC region. This research will use advanced multivariate time series analysis.
Keywords: technology transfer; export diversification; human capital; economic growth

Title: The Impact of Knowledge Intensive Foreign Direct Investment on Skills and Labour Markets of OECD Countries
Authors: Sara Amoroso and Pietro Moncada-Paternò-Castello
Affiliations: European Commission, Joint Research Centre – Directorate for Innovation and Grow - Calle Inca Garcilaso 3 – 41092, Seille (Spain)
Abstract: Foreign direct investment (FDI), along with international trade, is often seen as one of the most important vehicles for technology transfer and growth, provided that the host county has the appropriate level of human capital to absorb the foreign technology spillovers. However, if on the one hand multinational enterprises (MNEs) may be able to provide higher wages and better working conditions due to their comparatively better management practices and higher productivity, on the other hand they are able to negotiate lower wages by leveraging the threat to serve local markets from foreign plants.
The unprecedented growth in FDI in the last decades has caused drastic changes in the labour markets of the host countries. Indeed, the major part of FDI takes place in low tech industries, where the wages and skills are low, or in high tech, where they offer a wage premium for the highly skilled workers. This increases the polarization of employment into high-wage and low-wage jobs, at the expenses of middle-skill jobs.
In this paper, we look at the effects of two types of FDI inflows, namely foreign investment in knowledge intensive and manufacturing activities, on a set of domestic labour market characteristics such as skills, wages, non-wage labour costs, and collective bargaining coverage of unions. Employing a novel dataset on greenfield FDI by country and sector, we are able to provide a more nuanced picture of what type of FDI is responsible for specific changes in the labour market, and to understand which mechanism is dominating.

Title: Technology and Wages
Authors: Dario Guarascio 1,* and Mario Pianta 2
Affiliations: 1 National Institute for the Analysis of Public Policies (INAPP, Rome); 2 University of Urbino, Carlo Bo
* Corresponding author: E-Mail: dario.guarascio@sssup.it
Abstract: This article explores the impact of technological change on the dynamics of profits and wages. Expanding on previous works (Pianta and Tancioni, 2007; Guarascio and Pianta, 2016), the analysis accounts for a number of elements of complexity affecting the investigated relationships: feedback loops between key variables; distributive conflict; industries’ technological heterogeneity; workers’ skills endowment; intertwining between technological change and international fragmentation of production (i.e., offshoring). The relation between technological change, profits and wages is investigated, empirically, relying on the Sectoral Innovation Database (SID) providing industry-level information on economic performance and innovation for the major European economies. The key results are the following. The introduction of new products pushes the dynamics of both profits and wages while no significant association is detected with respect to process innovation. Offshoring has a differentiated effect on profits and wages. In the first case, a positive impact is observed, particularly regarding the offshoring of services. As regards wages, in turn, offshoring exerts a negative impact particularly when the import of low-tech and manufactured intermediates is accounted for. Finally, distinguishing between low, medium and high skilled wages highlights a high degree of heterogeneity characterizing the relationships under investigation.

Title: Digital Labour in the Platform Economy
Authors: Andrea Fumagalli 1, Stefano Lucarelli 2 Elena Musolino Bosco 3
Affiliations: 1 Università di Pavia; 2 Università di Bergamo; 3 Università di Bergamo
Abstract: The aim of the paper is to analyse the features of the digital labour connected with the so-called Platform Economy. Uber, Airbnb, Helpling and many other platform-based business models rely on a labor-force of independentcontractors, who work on their own account and at their own risk, for low wages and without social security. The clients of the platforms essentially gain access to an on-demand labor-force, while the independent contractors who provide the labour are subject to precarious working conditions.The new technological paradigm based on AI, genetics, machine-learning algorithm and neurosciences can affect labour performance in terms of not only working conditions but also qualitative aspects of human life.
Keyword: Platform Economy; Digital Labour; AI; labour perception; robotics

Title: Is Innovation Destroying Jobs? Firm Level Evidence from the EU
Authors: Mariacristina Piva 1 and Marco Vivarelli 2
Affiliations: 1 Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Piacenza, Italy; Email: mariacristina.piva@unicatt.it
2 Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy; UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, The Netherlands and IZA, Bonn, Germany; Email: marco.vivarelli@unicatt.it
Abstract: Using a unique firm-level database comprising the top European R&D investors over the period 2002-2013 and running LSDVC estimates, this study finds a significant labour-friendly impact of R&D expenditures. However, this positive employment effect appears limited in magnitude and entirely due to the medium-and high-tech sectors, while no effect can be detected in the low-tech industries. From a policy point of view, this outcome is supporting the EU2020 strategy, but—taking into account that most of European economies are specialized in low-tech activities—is also worrying in terms of future perspectives of the European labour market.
Keywords: R&D; innovation; employment; firm-level analysis; EU
JEL codes: O33

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