People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Dr. Jörg Flecker
Abstract: Exaggerated anxieties and disappointed hopes. The effects of new technologies on employment.

The theme "new technologies and employment" - and especially the key term "information society" triggers contradicting reactions: while the one side emphasises additional employment opportunities and increased flexibility, the other side underscores rationalisation effects, precarious employment, and the polarisation of qualification requirements. A central problem in the debate on the quantitative and qualitative employment effects of new technologies, has always been that technical potentials were expected to have immediate effects on business and the labour market. This meant an exaggeration of both the opportunities and risks involved. But significant processes of change were not taken into account. Numerous failed forecasts have led to the conclusion that not technology and its potentials but much rather economic and social developments should be the starting point for any analysis.

Empirical investigations proved 'technological determinism' wrong and identified an amplifying effect instead because new technologies aggravate the trends initiated in economic processes and patterns of social relationships. This is the case, for instance, for organisational strategies such as outsourcing and flexibilisation as well as the gender ratio which explains the persistent segregation in the labour market.

Expectations of high positive employment effects through new information and communication technologies are considered unlikely not only because of substantial streamlining effects in all business segments, but also because empirical analyses confirm the tendency of 'jobless growth': even new employment fields such as telecommunications and multimedia, despite high demand and production growth, hardly create any additional jobs. Not only in view of quantitative but also qualitative employment effects, governments should therefore be referring more strongly to the gap between wishful thinking and reality instead of to technological development alone, A survey determining the status of research on technologies for the information society in eight European Union member states in the framework of the project "Information Society, Work and the Generation of New Forms of Social Exclusion" commissioned by DG 12 of the European Commission formed the basis for this contribution.


Jörg Flecker (* 1959) has been scientific head of the Research and Advice Centre for the Working World (FORBA, Forschungs- und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt) and lecturer at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration since 1991. He studied commercial sciences at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, completed a post-graduate training at the Institute for Advanced Studies and wrote a sociology diploma thesis on "Betriebliche Sozialbeziehungen und Technikeinsatz" (Social relations in businesses and the use of technology). From 1986 to 1990, he was scientific employee at the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) in Vienna, 1991 he was lector and guest professor at the University of Central Lancashire in Great Britain.

Numerous activities in work and industrial sociology, including the realisation and running of several partly international research projects on the process and effects of using technology in businesses, labour market developments, and aspects of state technology policy. One of his current activities, is the project "Information society, work and new forms of social exclusion", an empirical survey of eight member states commissioned by the European Commission, DG12.

His publications include: "Jenseits der Sachzwanglogik - Arbeitspolitik zwischen Anpassungsdruck und Gestaltungschancen", Berlin 1997; "The Sexual Division of Labour in Process Manufacturing: Economic Restructuring, Training and ‚Women's Work'"; in: European Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 4 (1998), No. 1 (with Pollert, A., Meil, P.); "Implementing the directive for VDU work - the EU-state of the art", in: Behaviour & Information Technology, 1998, Vol. 17, No. 2 (with Stary, Ch., Riesenacker-Caba, Th.); "The end of institutional stability. What future for the 'German model'?" in: Economic and Industrial Democracy, 1999, Vol. 20, No. 1 (with Schulten, Th.)

Institution: FORBA Forschungs- und Beratungszentrum Arbeitswelt
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