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Automation, job characteristics and job insecurity

Tom Coupe (School of Business and Economics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 13 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to analyze whether specific jobs characteristics, which experts have identified as being more automation proof, are associated with reduced job insecurity.


Data come from a recent survey providing information on sources of job insecurity as well as on detailed job characteristics. The analysis is based on various regression models.


People who have jobs that involve lots of personal interaction are less likely to be concerned about losing their job because of automation, or because of other reasons, and are more likely to think their job will exist 50 years from now. Having a creative job does not change these concerns. The share of respondents who fear losing their job to automation is fairly small, and those who do, typically fear other sources of job insecurity as much or even more.

Practical implications

Developing interpersonal skills is more likely to be an effective strategy for reducing job insecurity than developing creative skills. The findings further suggest that policies aimed at automation are unlikely to suffice for the elimination of worry over job loss, as many workers who fear automation at the same time feel there are other reasons that might lead to the loss of their job.


There are very few studies that link fear of losing one’s job to automation to a job’s characteristics. The survey used here is unique in the level of detail provided on job characteristics.



Coupe, T. (2019), "Automation, job characteristics and job insecurity", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 40 No. 7, pp. 1288-1304.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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