Elderly Left Behind? How Older Workers Can Participate in the Modern Labor Market
In her 2021 State of the Union address, European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen announced that “[the EU] will invest in 5G and fiber. But equally important is the investment in digital skills.” Indeed, the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, which runs until 2026, has earmarked substantial funds to tackle the digital divide, in acknowledgment of the fact that the EU is not only missing ICT specialists but also that many Europeans do not have sufficient digital skills to thrive in today’s society and labor market. Many observers argue that older workers in particular lack digital skills, suffering more often from computer anxiety and showing lower computer self-efficacy (Czaja et al. 2006). This lack of skills hampers their employability and productivity in a technologically fast-changing world.
Returns to ICT Skills
How important is mastering information and communication technology (ICT) on modern labor markets? We answer this question with unique data on ICT skills tested in 19 countries. Our two instrumental-variable models exploit technologically induced variation in broadband Internet availability that gives rise to variation in ICT skills across countries and German municipalities. We find statistically and economically significant returns to ICT skills. For instance, an increase in ICT skills similar to the gap between an average-performing and a top-performing country raises earnings by about 8 percent. One mechanism driving positive returns is selection into occupations with high abstract task content.
Skills, Earnings, and Employment: Exploring Causality in the Estimation of Returns to Skills
Large-scale Assessments in Education,
Ample evidence indicates that a person’s human capital is important for success on the labor market in terms of both wages and employment prospects. However, unlike the efforts to identify the impact of school attainment on labor-market outcomes, the literature on returns to cognitive skills has not yet provided convincing evidence that the estimated returns can be causally interpreted. Using the PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills, this paper explores several approaches that aim to address potential threats to causal identification of returns to skills, in terms of both higher wages and better employment chances. We address measurement error by exploiting the fact that PIAAC measures skills in several domains. Furthermore, we estimate instrumental-variable models that use skill variation stemming from school attainment and parental education to circumvent reverse causation. Results show a strikingly similar pattern across the diverse set of countries in our sample. In fact, the instrumental-variable estimates are consistently larger than those found in standard least-squares estimations. The same is true in two “natural experiments,” one of which exploits variation in skills from changes in compulsory-schooling laws across U.S. states. The other one identifies technologically induced variation in broadband Internet availability that gives rise to variation in ICT skills across German municipalities. Together, the results suggest that least-squares estimates may provide a lower bound of the true returns to skills in the labor market.