The New Division of Labor

The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market

Frank Levy
Richard J. Murnane
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The New Division of Labor
    Book Description:

    As the current recession ends, many workers will not be returning to the jobs they once held--those jobs are gone. InThe New Division of Labor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane show how computers are changing the employment landscape and how the right kinds of education can ease the transition to the new job market.

    The book tells stories of people at work--a high-end financial advisor, a customer service representative, a pair of successful chefs, a cardiologist, an automotive mechanic, the author Victor Hugo, floor traders in a London financial exchange. The authors merge these stories with insights from cognitive science, computer science, and economics to show how computers are enhancing productivity in many jobs even as they eliminate other jobs--both directly and by sending work offshore. At greatest risk are jobs that can be expressed in programmable rules--blue collar, clerical, and similar work that requires moderate skills and used to pay middle-class wages. The loss of these jobs leaves a growing division between those who can and cannot earn a good living in the computerized economy. Left unchecked, the division threatens the nation's democratic institutions.

    The nation's challenge is to recognize this division and to prepare the population for the high-wage/high-skilled jobs that are rapidly growing in number--jobs involving extensive problem solving and interpersonal communication. Using detailed examples--a second grade classroom, an IBM managerial training program, Cisco Networking Academies--the authors describe how these skills can be taught and how our adjustment to the computerized workplace can begin in earnest.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4592-7
    Subjects: Economics, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 New Divisions of Labor
    (pp. 1-10)

    ON MARCH 22, 1964, THE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON THE TRIPLE Revolution sent a fourteen-page memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson. The signers included chemist Linus Pauling (recipient of two Nobel Prizes), economist Gunnar Myrdal (a future Nobel Prize-winner), and Gerard Piel, publisher ofScientific American. In the memo, the committee warned the president of long-run threats to the nation beginning with the likelihood that computers would soon create mass unemployment.

    A new era of production has begun. Its principles of organization are as different from those of the industrial era as those of the industrial era were different from the...

  5. PART I Computers and the Economy
    • CHAPTER 2 Why People Still Matter
      (pp. 13-30)

      On Friday, November 11, 1999, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe) closed its trading pits. Three days later Liffe reopened for business but its trading pits were empty. Bond dealers now traded directly from their offices using Eurex, a digital trading network based in Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bourse. Between Friday and Monday, a hundred open-outcry traders in the pits had lost their jobs.

      The traders had cut a vivid picture in their striped jackets, yelling and waving bond dealers’ order slips. They also had been well paid. Doug Fisher, a thirty-nine-year-old Liffe trader, had earned the equivalent of...

    • CHAPTER 3 How Computers Change Work and Pay
      (pp. 31-54)

      In November 1962 Boeing launched the 727, a 131-passenger jetliner designed to operate out of small airports with short runways. The roll-out completed an eighty-one-month development process during which more than 5,000 engineers worked with thousands of pounds of blueprints to design an aircraft that included more than 100,000 parts.¹ The airplane’s complexity meant that no one person could guarantee the blueprints’ internal consistency and so the second step in the design process was the construction of a full-scale model to ensure that the components fit—that proper space had been left for the aircraft’s seats, hydraulic lines, air conditioning...

  6. PART II The Skills Employers Value
    • CHAPTER 4 Expert Thinking
      (pp. 57-75)

      Dennis LaGrand is a senior service technician at Medford Orbit, a new car dealership in Medford, Massachusetts.¹ Like most auto technicians today, he relies heavily on computers. He uses computerized diagnostic equipment. He reads on-line factory service bulletins. He relies on in-car flash memory chips that record episodic events.

      The shop’s diagnostic computer uses rules-based software and it complements the rules-based diagnostics that make up most of shop repair manuals. A nonworking rear windshield wiper in an SUV has several potential causes: a bad on-off switch, a burned-out wiper motor, a break in a circuit. Because these elements are linked...

    • CHAPTER 5 Complex Communication
      (pp. 76-96)

      IN THEGUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS, THE ENTRY FOR THE shortest correspondence belongs to the French author Victor Hugo and his publisher.¹ After finishingLes Misérables, the exhausted writer delivered the manuscript to the publisher and left on vacation. But Hugo worried about the book’s reception, and so he wrote his publisher a very short note, which said:

      The publisher sent back an equally short note that, to Hugo’s delight, read

      Their communication is an information-age dream. Two characters—fourteen bits—posed and then confirmed dreams of wealth and acclaim.² But Hugo and his publisher were communicating under ideal conditions....

  7. PART III How Skills Are Taught
    • CHAPTER 6 Enabling Skills
      (pp. 99-108)

      WHERE DO READING, WRITING, AND MATHEMATICS FIT INTO a work world filled with computers? In this chapter we explain why they are essential for mastering tasks requiring expert thinking and complex communication.

      In 1975 Mary Simmons worked as a local service representative for AT&T in a small office in the Northeast.¹ Her customer base covered six adjacent towns. She processed customer bill payments and directed technicians to sites needing repair work. She also responded to customer requests for new products and services but that didn’t take much time. AT&T offered their customers a choice of two specialty telephones in 1975,...

    • CHAPTER 7 Computers and the Teaching of Skills
      (pp. 109-130)

      CAN COMPLEX COMMUNICATION BE LEARNED? WHAT ABOUT expert thinking in a particular domain? Can computers help people to master the necessary skills? We will see in this chapter that some successful American companies believe that the answer to the first two questions is an unqualified yes. The answer to the third question is also yes, with the qualification that great care is needed in figuring out the appropriate roles for computers in skill building.

      Alonzo, a first-line manager at IBM, heads a six-person software design team. Seven months ago, he recruited Ned, a software engineer with a reputation for creativity...

    • CHAPTER 8 Standards-Based Education Reform in the Computer Age
      (pp. 131-148)

      EVERYONE AGREES THAT IMPROVING THE NATION’S SCHOOLS is a critical national priority. People disagree sharply on how to achieve the goal of teaching all students the mathematics, reading, and writing skills that are necessary for expert thinking and complex communication. We begin this chapter by looking at one urban school that has made a success of standards-based reform, the policy approach that almost all states have adopted. We then explain why this reform approach is controversial.

      Boston’s Richard T. Murphy School is a large public elementary school in which four out of five students come from low-income families. One in...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Next Ten Years
      (pp. 149-158)

      IN 1960, HERBERT SIMON TOOK THE RISK OF PREDICTING HOW computers would change the mix of occupations by 1985. We conclude this book by taking a similar risk, speculating on how computers will change the job market in the years ahead.

      We will not look as far into the future as Simon did—ten years will be sufficient for our purpose—but we will expand on Simon by considering a broader set of consequences. Simon focused on how computers would change the corporation’s mix of occupations. From society’s perspective, that change is the first step in a longer process. Out...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 159-168)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 169-174)