Risk of technological unemployment and support for redistributive policies

  • Stefano SacchiEmail author
  • Dario Guarascio
  • Silvia Vannutelli


In recent years, economic literature has highlighted the rising employment risks related to technological change. On the comparative political economy side, exposure to labor market risks has been investigated as a source of preference for redistribution, but so far, technological change has not been framed as a distinctive risk. In this chapter, we argue that occupational risk related to technological change can be a relevant driver for redistribution preferences, particularly in support of social policies geared at protecting workers from lack of income. We test our hypothesis on Italy, using data from Round 8 of the European Social Survey, including unique data on support for minimum income schemes (GMI) alongside universal basic income (UBI), and a measure of subjective (perceived) risk of technological unemployment alongside an objective measure based on task substitutability (the Routine Task Index). Our results show that higher levels of objective exposure to risk of technological unemployment significantly correlate with support for some income protection measures, GMI in particular. At the same time, the perceived risk of technological unemployment alone has no explanatory power. Finally, results highlight the notion of distributive deservingness as relevant for the popular support of redistributive policies.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acemoglu, Daron, and David H. Autor. 2011. “Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings.” In Handbook of Labor Economics, Volume 4, edited by Orley C. Ashenfelter and David Card, 1043-1171. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  2. Acemoglu, Daron, and Pascual Restrepo. 2017. “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from Us Labor Markets.” NBER Working Paper 23825Google Scholar
  3. Arntz, Melanie, Terry Gregory, and Ulrich Zierahn. 2016. “The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis.” OECD Social, Employment, and Migration Working Papers (189).Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, Robert D., and John Wu. 2017. False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation ITIF, May 2017Google Scholar
  5. Autor, David H. 2015. “Why are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 29 (3): 3-30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Autor, David H., and David Dorn. 2013. “The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market.” American Economic Review 103(5): 1553-97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Autor, David H., Frank Levy, and Richard J. Murnane. 2003. “The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 118 (4): 1279–1333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Autor, David H., David Dorn, and Gordon H. Hanson. 2013. “The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects f Import Competition in the United States.” American Economic Review 103 (6): 2121-2168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berton, Fabio, Matteo Richiardi, and Stefano Sacchi. 2012. The Political Economy of Work Security and Flexibility: Italy in Comparative Perspective. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  10. Burgoon, Brian, and Fabian Dekker. 2010. “Flexible Employment, Economic Insecurity and Social Policy Preferences in Europe.” Journal of European Social Policy 20 (2): 126-141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Colantone, Italo, and Piero Stanig. 2017. “The Trade Origins of Economic Nationalism: Import Competition and Voting Behavior in Western Europe.” BAFFI CAREFIN Centre Research Paper Series No. 2017–49, January.Google Scholar
  12. Cusack, Thomas, Torben Iversen, and Philipp Rehm. 2006. “Risks at Work: The Demand and Supply Sides of Government Redistribution.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 22 (3): 365–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emmenegger, Patrick, Silja Häusermann, Bruno Palier, and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser. 2012. The Age of Dualization: The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Emmenegger, Patrick, Paul Marx, and Dominik Schraff. 2015. “Labour Market Disadvantage, Political Orientations and Voting: How Adverse Labour Market Experiences Translate into Electoral Behaviour.” Socio-Economic Review 13 (2): 189-213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. ESS. 2016. European Social Survey Round 8. Data file edition 2.0. NSD - Norwegian Centre for Research Data, Norway – Data Archive and distributor of ESS data for ESS ERIC.Google Scholar
  16. Eurofound. 2018. Automation, Digitalisation and Platforms: Implications for Work and Employment, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  17. Frey, Carl B., and Michael Osborne. 2017. “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 114 (C): 254-280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goos, Maarten, and Alan Manning. 2007. “Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain.” Review of Economics and Statistics 89 (1): 118–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goos, Maarten, Alan Manning, and Anna Salomons. 2014. “Explaining Job Polarization: Routine-Biased Technological Change and Offshoring.” American Economic Review 104 (8): 2509- 2526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gualtieri, Valentina, Dario Guarascio, and Roberto Quaranta. 2018. “Routine Tasks and the Dynamics of Italian employment.” INAPP Policy Brief, 7/2018.Google Scholar
  21. Häusermann, Silja. 2012. “The Politics of Old and New Social Policies.” In The politics of the new welfare state, edited by Guiliano Bonoli and David Natali, 111-132. Oxford, Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Häusermann, Silja, and Hanspeter Kriesi. 2015. “What Do Voters Want? Dimensions and Configurations in Individual-Level Preferences and Party Choice.” In The Politics of Advanced Capitalism, edited by Pablo Beramendi, Silja Häusermann, Herbert Kitschelt, and Hanspeter Kriesi, 202-230. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Häusermann, Silja, Thomas Kurer, and Hanna Schwander. 2015. “High-Skilled Outsiders? Labor Market Vulnerability, Education and Welfare State Preferences?” Socio-Economic Review 13 (2): 235–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Häusermann, Silja, Thomas Kurer, and Hanna Schwander. 2016. “Sharing the Risk? Households, Labor Market Vulnerability, and Social Policy Preferences in Western Europe.” The Journal of Politics 78 (4): 1045-1060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Horowitz, Jason. 2018. “Why Italy’s Insular Election Is More Important Than It Looks”, New York Times, March 2, 2018.
  26. Iversen, Torben, and David Soskice. 2001. “An Asset Theory of Social Policy Preferences.” American Political Science Review 95 (4): 875–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Iversen, Torben, and David Soskice. 2015. “Democratic Limits to Redistribution: Inclusionary versus Exclusionary Coalitions in the Knowledge Economy.” World Politics 67 (2): 185-225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kitschelt, Herbert. 1995. The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kitschelt, Herbert, and Philipp Rehm. 2014. “Occupations as a Site of Political Preference Formation.” Comparative Political Studies 47 (12): 1670-1706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kriesi Hanspeter, Edgar Grande, Romain Lachat, Martin Dolezal, Simon Bornschier, and Timotheus Frey. 2008. West European Politics in the Age of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kriesi Hanspeter, Edgar Grande, Martin Dolezal, Marc Helbling, Dominic Höglinger, Swen Hutter, and Bruno Wüest. 2012. Political Conflict in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Levy, Frank. 2018. “Computers and Populism: Artificial Intelligence, Jobs, and Politics in the Near Term.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 34 (3): 393-417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Marx, Paul. 2014. “Labour Market Risks and Political Preferences: The Case of Temporary Employment.” European Journal of Political Research 53 (1): 136-159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Marx, Paul, and Georg Picot. 2013. “The Party Preferences of Atypical Workers in Germany.” Journal of European Social Policy 23 (2): 164-178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nadeau, Richard, Michael Lewis-Beck, and Éric Bélanger. 2012. “Economics and Elections Revisited.” Comparative Political Studies 46 (5): 551-573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. OECD. 2017. The Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business, Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  37. Picot, Georg, and Arianna Tassinari. 2017. “All of One Kind? Labour Market Reforms Under Austerity in Italy and Spain.” Socio-Economic Review 15 (2): 461-482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Picot, Georg, and Irene Menéndez. 2017. “Political Parties and Non-Standard Employment: An Analysis of France, Germany, Italy and Spain.” Socio-Economic Review. Early view.
  39. Rehm, Philipp. 2009. “Risks and Redistribution. An Individual-Level Analysis.” Comparative Political Studies 42 (7): 855–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rehm, Philipp. 2011. “Social Policy by Popular Demand.” World Politics 63 (2): 271-299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rehm, Philipp. 2016. Risk Inequality and Welfare States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rueda, David. 2007. Social Democracy Inside Out: Partisanship and Labor Market Policy in Advanced Industrialized Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sacchi, Stefano. 2018. “The Italian Welfare State in the Crisis: Learning to Adjust?” South European Society and Politics 23 (1): 29-46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sacchi, Stefano, and Jungho Roh. 2016. “Conditionality, Austerity and Welfare: Financial Crisis and its Impact on Welfare in Italy and Korea.” Journal of European Social Policy 26 (4): 358-373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sacchi, Stefano, and Patrik Vesan. 2015. “Employment Policy: Segmentation, Deregulation and Reforms in the Italian Labour Market.” In The Italian welfare state in a European perspective: A comparative analysis, edited by Ugo Ascoli and Emmanuele Pavolini, 71-100. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  46. Schwab, Klaus. 2015. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution. What It Means and How to Respond.” Foreign Affairs, December 12, 2015.Google Scholar
  47. Schwander, Hanna. 2018. “Are Social Democratic Parties Insider Parties? Electoral Strategies of Social Democratic Parties in Western Europe in the Age of Dualization.” Comparative European Politics. Early view.
  48. Schwander, Hanna, and Silja Häusermann. 2013. “Who Is In and Who Is Out? A Risk-Based Conceptualization of Insiders and Outsiders.” Journal of European Social Policy 23 (3): 248-269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Thewissen, Stefan, and David Rueda. 2019. “Automation and the Welfare State: Technological Change as a Determinant of Redistribution Preferences.” Comparative Political Studies 52 (2): 171-208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Reenen, John. 2011. “Wage Inequality, Technology and Trade: 21st Century Evidence.” Labour Economics 18 (6): 730-741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vlandas, Tim, and Daphne Halikiopoulou. 2018. “Social Policies and the Impact of Social Group Insecurity on Far Right Party Support in Europe.” Paper presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, Kyoto, 23-25 June 2018.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefano Sacchi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dario Guarascio
    • 2
  • Silvia Vannutelli
    • 3
  1. 1.Università LUISS Guido Carli and INAPPMilanItaly
  2. 2.INAPPMilanItaly
  3. 3.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations