Digitization at the Workplace More Routine Work for Academics

Automation and digitization have so far not led to academics taking on only creative tasks, while machines have been carrying out the tiresome routine tasks. This is shown in a study by the Institute of German Business (IB).

The winners of digital change are programmers, data scientists, and those who earn their money with skills that a machine cannot replace so quickly. However, the expectation that routine activities will disappear from everyday work has not yet been confirmed.

The IB survey based on six employee surveys conducted by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training shows that the jobs of employees with university degrees are increasingly characterized by routine: In 1979, only 18 percent of the academics surveyed stated that they frequently perform routine activities; in 2012 - the year of the most recent survey - the figure was 23 percent.

"With increasing automation, the overall requirements are increasing, but at the same time highly qualified people have to cope with more and more routine tasks," says IW expert Michael Zibrowius.

These included, for example, the regular maintenance of databases or the daily checking of the correct setting of a production machine. The proportion of routine work has also increased among employees with other levels of qualification. Of those who are employed without a vocational qualification, 64 percent now frequently perform routine activities, compared to 54 percent in 1979.

However, from this development it cannot be deduced that the work has become simpler - even very complex tasks can be carried out routinely if they are repeatedly carried out in a similar form.

This applies, for example, to the parallel handling of several computer programs. "The current good labor market situation shows that more routine in the job does not have to endanger the workplace. Even in times of digital change, there is still a need for routine human work," says Zibrowius.