Discussion Papers

Alfons Keuter

Beschäftigungseffekte neuer TK-Infrastrukturen und -Dienste
Nr. 191 / Januar 1999


At the end of the 20th century, economies all over the world are becoming more and more dominated by the growing information sector, decreasing the dominance of the industrial and services sector. Information and telecommunications (IT) infrastructures, equipment, and services have begun to penetrate all aspects of public, business, and private life, and thus, lead to the "information society". In Germany, after more than two decades of increasing numbers of unemployment and arriving at more than 4 million people without a job, the general interest in this phenomenon focuses on its employment effects: What are the quantitative and the qualitative implications of the diffusion of the IT technologies for the labour market?

The present paper reviews theoretical and empirical studies on this topic, focusing on the Germany economy and following a disaggregated methodology. It makes clear, that the increasing diffusion of the IT technologies, which accelerates the historical structural change of the economy, leads in several areas to the destruction of employment and creates new jobs in other parts of the economy. In all sectors, an increasing part of physical production is transferred to IT-based services, lowering the demand for labour and increasing the productivity. In the 80s, this primarily happened in the manufacturing industries. Meanwhile, the IT-diffusion process concentrates on the services sectors (private and public services like retail, banking, media and public administration).

As a central aspect of this process, the importance of the information intensive services like IT services, research and development, planning, consulting, customer care etc. increases. An implication of the diffusion of the IT-technologies for the production of these services is the increase of outsourcing activities and cross-border production. It leads to a change in the geographical distribution of economic activities, helping the developing and remote countries to participate in the world economy.

Therefore, the information society leads to a significant growth in (IT-based) services, but this does not automatically improve the national employment figures. Productivity, substitution and globalisation effects with subsequent job losses in the declining areas of the economy partly outweigh the employment increases in the IT-based sectors. Based on the analyzed spectrum of quantitative results and forecasts for the German economy, the study at hand does not support the expectation of a positive net outcome of the development in the short and medium term. Furthermore, the creation of new jobs is increasingly hampered by the structure of the qualifications of the supply on the German labour market. Meanwhile, there are several tenthousands of qualified jobs which cannot be filled. With respect to the results of our study it remains doubtful, whether the growth in IT infrastructures and services and the creation of IT-based jobs will provide a significant part of the solution for the German unemployment problem even in the long run.

Only German language version available.

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