various tenures and workers earning different wages. This internal variation provides prima facie evidence that the correspondence between the jobs these workers are performing and the occupational classifications used to label them may be breaking down. Jobs are shaped by the interactive effect of (1) managerial and engineering choices with respect to work design and technology and (2) the knowledge, skills, abilities, and outlooks that individuals bring to the job. The increased variation in demographics that we are witnessing within any one occupation suggests the prospect of broader variation in job content. Going beyond this suggestive evidence, however, requires more intensive and direct analysis of the tasks workers are actually performing.


Changes in product and financial markets are producing changes in the nature of work. Product market forces are having two different effects. Increased domestic and global price competition has put pressure on labor costs. As a result, jobs that in the past paid high premiums but that can be supplied more cheaply in other countries or in domestic enterprises that pay competitive market rates are moving to these lower-cost environments and organizations. This is particularly true of semiskilled blue-collar work in both manufacturing and services. Wage competition is one cause of the restructuring experienced in American industry in recent years.

Along with increased price competition, markets have changed in ways that require increased capacity and speed in developing and introducing new and more varied products. This in turn increases pressures within organizations for flexibility in work organization and sets off an interrelated set of changes in organizational structures and human resource practices: specifically, flatter hierarchies, greater horizontal or cross-functional coordination through teams, and personnel policies designed to support increased flexibility and adaptability. The rapid change in product and service markets and product life cycles suggests that there is more rapid churning in the knowledge base required of employees who design and produce these goods and services.

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