Technological change and
labour markets in Europe
Edited by Andreas Bergström and Karl Wennberg
Andreas Bergström is Deputy Director at the green and liberal
think tank Fores (Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Sus-
tainability) and head of Fores’ programme for economic reforms
and entrepreneurship. He formerly worked as Political Adviser
for several liberal ministers, and now leads research projects on
automatisation, entrepreneurship and employment.
Anna Breman is Group Chief Economist at Swedbank since 2015,
while also serving as independent expert in the government anal-
ysis group “The future of Work,” holding a Ph.D in Economics
from Stockholm School of Economics. She previously worked as
deputy director at the Swedish Ministry of Finance, and as a re-
searcher in the US.
Fernando del Río is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Uni-
versidade de Santiago de Compostela, holding a Ph.D. in Econom-
ics from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. His areas of research
are economic growth and labour economics.
Eduardo L. Giménez is Assistant Professor of Economics at the
Universidade de Vigo, with a Ph.D. in Economics from Universi-
dad Carlos III de Madrid. His areas of research are, among others,
general equilibrium theory and its applications to real business
cycles, financial economics and monetary theory.
Georg Graetz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Eco-
nomics at Uppsala University, research affiliate at the Institute
for the Study of Labor (IZA), and associate at the Centre for Eco-
nomic Performance in London. His research focuses on techno-
logical change, wage inequality, and the economics of education.
Claire Ingram is a PhD Candidate at the Stockholm School of Eco-
nomics in Stockholm, Sweden. She conducts research into the im-
pact of increased reliance on digital artefacts, especially when it
comes to entrepreneurship and the world of work.
Darja Isaksson is an entrepreneur and advisor within consum-
er experience design, innovation strategy and data analytics. She
was awarded ‘Most influential opinion maker of the year’ in 2016
by Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärer, and is currently a
member of the Swedish Prime Minister’s innovation council.
Machines, jobs and equality
Andreas Bergström and Karl Wennberg (editors)
First edition, first print
Printed by Fridholm & Partners, Hindås, Sweden, 2016
Published by the European Liberal Forum asbl with the support of the Bertil Ohlin Institute and
Fores. Funded by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not responsible for the
content of the publication. The views expressed are those of the authors alone. They do not
necessarily reflect the views of the European Liberal Forum asbl.
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Bertil Ohlininstitutet is a Swedish think tank, founded in 1993 with the purpose to initiate
research and debate in critical areas of public policy in the tradition of liberal thinking. The
institute is namned after Bertil Ohlin, who was leader of the Liberal party of Sweden (Folkpar-
tiet) between 1944 and 1967. By building networks of scholars, participants in the public debate
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Fores is a green and liberal think tank. We are a foundation and non-profit NGO and we want
to renew the debate in Sweden with a belief in entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for
people to shape their own lives. Market-based solutions to climate change and other environ-
mental challenges, the long-term benefits of migration and a welcoming society, the gains of
increased levels of entrepreneurship, the need for a modernization of the welfare sector and the
challenges of the rapidly changing digital society – these are some of the issues we focus on. We
act as a link between curious citizens, opinion makers, entrepreneurs, policymakers and Z
Andreas Bergström and Karl Wennberg
13 The maid, the clerk, the doctor & their computers
Fernando del Río and Eduardo L. Giménez
51 The impact of technological change on the labour market
65 Digitalisation and collective value creation
Darja Isaksson and Karl Wennberg
87 Diginomics and the productivity puzzle
105 How may robots affect the labour market in the near future?
135 Building blockchains: In search of a distributed ledger ‘standard’?
Claire Ingram, Jacob Lindberg and Robin Teigland
167 The intelligence explosion revisited
Karim Jebari and Joakim Lundborg
The past few years have witnessed an intense debate regarding tech-
nological change and its effects on labour markets. Erik Brynjolfsson
and Andrew McAfee’s celebrated book “The Second Machine Age” and
a host of related papers and books discuss how technological change re-
lated to computers and robots affects companies, labour markets, the
distribution of wealth and entrepreneurship. While much of this work
has been US-centric, European academics, policymakers and compa-
nies are increasingly discussing how the same issues affect Europe-
an economies. Understanding these changes is a vital prerequisite to
sound policy formation in the face of the societal challenges brought
about by such rapid change, regardless of whether one adheres to the
positive or negative scenarios outlined.
In an earlier book, “Inclusive Growth in Europe” (2014), we dis-
cussed the role of technological change in the rise of self-employment
and ‘precarious’ work arrangements in Europe. In this book, we de-
scribe a number of important sources of technological change, such
as information and computer technologies, accelerated robotisation,
artificial intelligence, and the advent of new modes of payments, such
as cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin). These are important and inter-related
trends, fuelled by the rapid advancement in digital technologies and
decreasing cost of computing power. The seven chapters in this volume
Andreas Bergström and Karl Wennberg
discuss the nature and significance of recent technological change, and
the impact on European companies and labour markets. The first half
of the book discusses the implications from a macro perspective, while
the second half looks at the technologies.
Chapter one - The maid, the clerk, the doctor and their computers - by
Fernando del Río and Eduardo Giménez, provides a review of recent
research regarding technological change and labour markets, with a
particular emphasis on Europe. Del Río and Giménez discuss research
showing how information and communication technologies have ena-
bled the automation and offshoring of many routine tasks. While this
has contributed to increased earnings for high-skilled workers, it has
also led to increasing job polarisation in the labour markets of most
developed countries. This polarisation, the authors argue, poses new
challenges to all democratic societies, as evidenced by segments of the
population increasingly calling for populist political solutions in the
face of economic decline. In their conclusions, the authors highlight in-
come redistribution, improving educational systems and job training
as ways of meeting these challenges.
The second chapter by Georg Graetz - The impact of technological
change on the labour market - discusses the implications of recent tech-
nological change for economic development. Graetz - a leading labour
market researcher - summarises research on how information tech-
nology has contributed to overall productivity growth and led to well-
known changes in labour market demand for various skills and tasks.
He also discusses what these developments could mean in the future.
Specifically, he argues governments need to ensure the education sys-
tem is responsive to the changing demands placed on workers, given
the skills acquired in their youth may be outdated before they reach re-
tirement age. Graetz shows that