The Changing Geography of Tasks and Skills

Technological and societal changes have led to a rearrangement of the nature and task content of jobs across the world. Jobs that used to require close spatial proximity and that formed dense local clusters of economic activity can nowadays connect through global online platforms, potentially allowing them to disperse across space. These longer running trends have recently accelerated in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the move to online work in the Covid-19 pandemic. For individual workers, this has led to increasingly unstable employment, earnings and career trajectories. The result is exacerbated labour market precariousness for some classes of workers, and new opportunities for others. Moreover, these individual-level trends are paralleled by changes at the level of local economies. Access to global networks reduces barriers to entry, particularly for hitherto disconnected amenity-rich cities that can now compete more easily for global talent. If regions and cities manage to leverage the increased global connectivity and changing task demand, they may enter new activities and attract new investments to leapfrog current lead regions. As a consequence, whereas some regions struggle to adapt to the new reality of work, for others, a new geography of opportunity unfolds. Unsurprisingly, these labour market realignments have inspired lively societal and academic debate, ranging from concerns about the future of work to hopes about new opportunities for accelerated economic development and growth. Approaching the spatial consequences of these processes led to fruitful nascent lines of research at the intersection of economic geography, innovation and the nature and future of work, with attention shifting from the industrial composition of regions, to the jobs, skills and tasks that characterise their economies. This theme welcomes submissions that address the evolving geography of skills and tasks on topics including but not limited to: