For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Labor Polarization in the context of Agricultural Robotization in the Middle Urals"

by Semin, A N; Örs, A (2020)


The digital transformation of agriculture in the Urals causes a major change in the qualitative and quantitative composition of the industry's workforce and its structure. This study determines the demand for highly qualified professionals in the industry who are appropriately trained to interact with digital products and technologies. This study identifies patterns of labor resource formation, including labor polarization, in the context of the digital transformation of the companies operating in agricultural sectors of Urals. To study labor polarization, the rate of decline (increase) in employment by profession depending on the wage grade in agricultural organizations was analyzed. Analysis of the effects of agricultural robotization on the labor force shows that 17 jobs were created between 2013-2020, 76.5% of them are occupied by men and 23.5% by women, the largest share of workers (47.1%) is in the age 18-29 years old, and 52.9% of workers have higher education. The analysis shows an increase in employment in the professions with the highest wage grades, while the employment growth rate of robot maintenance technicians and robotic milking operators was 16.7% per year. Several professions with average wage grades experienced no changes in employment during the period under review, while those with low wage grades and high routine operations experienced a drop in the employment rate. A conclusion has been made on labor polarization in the industry to reduce routine operations (ALM hypothesis).

Key Passage

The general trend in the formation of agricultural labor resources under digital transformation at the present stage is to increase the professional qualification level of workers. This is due to the gradual dwindling of the functions of manual labor and the development of labor skills of interaction and casing of artificial intelligence technologies and the Internet of Things, robotics, and data processing tools. The role of mental labor is significantly increasing in comparison with physical labor, there is an increase in the creative content of labor, a decrease in working time expenditures, a significant simplification of labor and an increase in its productivity. Empirical observations show a disappearance of old types of labor and the emergence of new ones, the complexity and strengthening of connections between specific types, which has an impact on the agricultural labor resource formation process. This subsequently leads to the need to improve workers' skills and their overall level of development to enable them to meet the high requirements imposed on them when using digital technologies. Workers must be well-versed in engineering, technology and production organization. They must also possess relevant labor skills allowing them to not only understand the entire process, but also to be able to control and, where necessary, regulate it, independently reconfigure equipment, detect problems and fix them, as well as perform routine repairs. Digital transformation leads to a systematic reduction in the demand for unskilled labor resources and the growth of skilled labor. There is an increasing need to bring workers' skills in line with the increasingly complex production process. Therefore, the reproduction of labor resources under digital transformation, which is characterized by the active introduction of robotics, serves as an expanded reproduction of a predominantly skilled workforce. (p.9)


Robotization, Agricultural Workers, Labor Divide, Labor Polarization, Digitization


Robots, Automation

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