March 2019

IZA DP No. 12259: From Ghana to America: The Skill Content of Jobs and Economic Development

There is a growing body of literature exploring the skill content of jobs. This paper contributes to this research by using data on the task content of occupations in developing countries, instead of U.S. data, as most existing studies do. The paper finds that indexes based on U.S. data do not provide a fair approximation of the levels, changes, and drivers of the routine cognitive and nonroutine manual skill content of jobs in developing countries. The paper also uncovers three new stylized facts. First, while developed countries tend to have jobs more intensive in nonroutine cognitive skills than developing countries, income (in growth and levels) is not associated with the skill content of jobs once the analysis accounts for other factors. Second, although adoption of information and communications technology is linked to job de-routinization, international trade is an offsetting force. Last, adoption of information and communications technology is correlated with lower employment growth in countries with a high share of occupations that are intensive in routine tasks.