Publications | 16 Aug, 2022

Working Paper 6: The rise of the digital labour market: characteristics and implications for the study of education, opportunity and work

Manuel Souto-Otero
Deputy Programme Director

Phillip Brown
Programme Director

The study of education and work has typically focused on the role of the credential in shaping individual opportunities in the competition of jobs. Despite its pivotal role in understanding the link between education and work how the labour market operates in an increasingly digital context has remained under-researched. This article explains why the digital labour market is in urgent need of study, not only because of a decline in the perceived value of credentials, but also because rapid digital innovation is transforming how labour markets are structured and shape the competition for jobs. Digital tools give job seekers new ways of describing themselves and employers additional quantifiable data on candidates, in real-time and at low cost. We identify three dimensions of digital labour markets that distinguish them from earlier ‘analogue’ models – Information, Control and Engagement (ICE). We explain how changes in these dimensions contribute to a restructuring of the recruitment process, and outline some of the implications for current accounts of the education-work relationship and social inequalities.


Working Paper 6 by Manuel Souto-Otero and Phillip Brown. Download full working paper here.

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