Industrial change and skills

From a micro perspective, skills are the most important assets held by a majority of workers: they are closely related to productivity and wages, which comprise the largest share of income over ones’ life. Levels and types of skills also affect work-satisfaction, self-realisation, social status and etc. From a macro perspective, appropriate skills provide a basis for sustainable growth and competitiveness.

Industrial change has profound impact on the level and types of skills actually used at workplace. Successful industrial modernisation leads to upskilling through targeted firms’ investments in training, through adoption of more advanced technologies and / or as part of learning-by-doing. As a result of change in industrial structure, workers forfeit previous skills and seek to acquire new ones. Lastly, in case of de-industrialisation deskilling takes place as workers take lower skilled jobs or move out of employment.

The research project seeks to assess the impact of radical industrial change on skills of workforce in Lithuania and other Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries between 1988 and 2008. The main argument is that the current levels and types of skills of the workforce are the result of: (a) “inherited” skills from the soviet era; (b) scale and trajectories of de-industrialisation that took place between 1990 and 2000; (c) type of re-industrialisation (e.g. technological upgrading, entry into new product markets and etc.) that took-off around 2000-2008. More specifically, the project seeks to:

  • Contribute to the debate on conceptualisation of ‘specific – general skills’ dichotomy. A literature has long argued that specific skills provide an obstacle to industrial change. However, conceptualisation of ‘skill specificity’ seems to be relatively under-developed.
  • Assess how change in industrial structure has affected structure of skills of the workforce in Lithuania between 1989 and 2008.
  • Develop a longitudinal case study of change in consumer radio-electronics industry in Lithuania. Consumer radio-electronics used to be one of the pillars of high-tech manufacturing. However, due to economic and technological shocks it has disintegrated. The case study is based on 50 in-depth interviews with former employees of four largest factories and seeks to explore their labour market adaptation trajectories after the collapse.
  • Comparative analysis of Central and Eastern European countries. This paper seeks to explore to what extent has the economic transition resulted in de-skilling, re-skilling or up-skilling of labour force?

The project is funded by Research Council of Lithuania (grant No. S-MOD-17-20).

Research papers:

Conference presentations:

  • Martinaitis, Ž., Christenko, A., KrÅ«minas, P., Paliokaitė, A. (2017). Impact of industrial change on skills during economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Presented at the 29th annual EAEPE Conference, held at Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary, 19-21 October, 2017.
  • Sadauskaitė, A., Martinaitis, Ž., Barzotto, M. (2018). Impact of industrial change on skills: longitudinal analysis of change in Lithuania. Presented at 25th International Conference of Europeanists, held at InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., 28-30 March, 2018.
  • Christenko, A., Martinaitis, Ž. (2018). Being specific: what do we mean by specificity of skills? Presented at the 30th annual EAEPE Conference, held at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis of Nice, France, 6-8 September, 2018.
  • Christenko, A., KrÅ«minas, P., Martinaitis, Ž., (2019). Creative destruction in the Lithuania’s post socialist manufacturing sector: skill biased technological change. Presented at the 30th annual SASE Conference, held at The New School for Social Research, New York City, U.S.A., 27-29 June, 2019.

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