Different strokes for differents folks : examining the effects of computerization on Canadian workers


Études théoriques et méthodologiques






Marie Lavoie

Pierre Therrien


Centre de recherche sur les innovations sociales


Computerization (the diffusion of a combination of hardware and software) has accelerated in the last 30 years due to advances in electronic technologies, the advent of the microprocessor and the tremendous development of the software industry. The process of codification has intensified and routine tasks have tended to disappear, changing the architecture of jobs and, therefore, the structure of employment. A number of occupations have become increasingly associated with the computer, and these jobs require highly skilled workers. Using a production function framework, we found that computerization is not labour-saving but is instead labour-using. Despite this general trend, important inter-industrial differences prevail in the association of skills patterns with the computer. By transforming the structure of jobs, the computer has changed the skills requirements: the knowledge, management and data category of workers is closely associated with the use of computers while for good workers the relationship is a substitutive one due to expert systems software. The computer because of the highly tacit nature of the tasks does not affect the service category of workers. Though the uniqueness of the computer revolution should not be exaggerated, the computer has certainly acted as a catalyst given its pervasiveness and its capacity to merge with other technologies.