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The political impacts of technological change

TransNum welcome a Norface seminar coordinated by Thomas Kurer from Zurich University on "How Technological Change Reshapes Politics: Technology, Elections, and Policies" on Friday November 25th, 2022.

Rendez-vous, Séminaire TransNum


Two papers will be presented:

Can Government Policies Moderate Political Backlash to Technological Change? (Reto Bürgisser, University of Zurich)

"A rapidly growing literature suggests that economic uncertainty created by structural transformation and technological change contribute to political dissatisfaction and the recent surge in populist voting. This project addresses a natural -- but so far largely unresolved -- follow-up question: can governments moderate the political backlash to economic modernization through appropriate policy interventions? While existing work suggests that spending cuts and austerity are electorally harmful for governments, we know surprisingly little about the presence of the reverse mechanism. We theorize the conditions under which expansive government policies may increase political support among those affected by technological change and present a research design to test our hypotheses empirically. Rather than examining a set of cross-nationally comparable but often somewhat abstract policies, we zoom in on a carefully chosen and financially significant intervention: the French professional security contract (CSP), which was introduced in 2011 with the explicit aim to support workers hit by structural economic change. In a first step, we examine whether the number of local CSP recipients affects regional-level turnout rates and election outcomes. In a second step, we complement this aggregate-level analysis with an original survey to learn more about underlying mechanisms and to test various potential explanation of why exactly a sizeable and targeted intervention like CSP does or does not moderate political responses to structural economic change.

Voices of the Vulnerable: The Effects of Routine Task Intensity on Union and Political Participation (Henning Finseraas, NTNU Trondheim)

Automation transforms the labour market and recent research documents effects on political preferences. One concern is that the transformation process also produces "left-behind'' workers with weak political representation. We study this question by analyzing the effects of vulnerability to automation on exposed workers' political participation. Using Norwegian administrative data that allow us to follow workers over time, we use firm closures to show that workers with a high score on the Routine Task Intensity (RTI) index, a measure of vulnerability to automation, experience decline in relative earnings and employment when their firm closes. The negative labour market effects have, however, small effects on political participation. We see a small decline in union membership, implying a decline in political representation in the workplace, but we find that they are slightly more likely to vote. The latter finding is in line with the mobilization model of economic distress, a theoretical framework with limited empirical support in the literature. Consistent with a scarring mechanism, we further find that the mobilization effect is driven by voters that return to employment after the firm closure. All effects are, however, small in substantive terms, so automation has not substantively changed political representation.

Practical informations

The seminar will be held at Sciences Po, 1 Place Saint Thomas d'Aquin  (salle du Conseil), 75007 Paris.

Mandatory registration.