Automation and Inequalities at Work and in the Household

Period of duration of course
Course info
Number of course hours
Number of hours of lecturers of reference
Number of hours of supplementary teaching

Type of exam

Written exam


Daniela Bellani


Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Overview of the course: This course will provide an overview of the consequences on labor markets and family outcomes of the process of automation, with a special focus on robotization and AI technologies

The introduction of new technologies transforms both the functioning of labor markets, employment relations and family sphere. On one side, technology changes several aspects of work and employment (i.e. how employers monitor employees). On the other side, technological change influences household income and its stability as well as family members’ material and emotional wellbeing.

This course is intended to introduce frameworks that are at the core of the vast literature on technological change and it will draw attention to the role that society plays in shaping the way that technologies impact employment relations and family dynamics. In a nutshell, the goal of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the socio-economic and employment challenges that new technologies are creating, with a look at the present and future family outcomes.

By the end of the course, students will be able to critically analyze the dynamic and complex relationship between technology, work and society.

Course format: The course is articulated into nine seminars according to the timetable provided below. Every seminar involves a mixture of a lecture and some discussion and group work. For each of the meetings, students are required to adopt a pro-active stance based on the reading of all the articles/chapters in the reading list. In particular, at each meeting, one student will present the readings, describing their content, methods and findings in critical perspective. Then a general discussion will follow also based on the discussion papers on the topic.

Examination procedure.

50% Class participation

50% Positional paper (Italian or English)



Session N. 1 Introduction: main concepts.

(27/01/2023, h. 10-13)

In the first session we will focus on the presentation of the course. This will be done by reviewing the main concepts and approaches on automation robotics and AI, while drawing attention to key contemporary debates and the main aspects of this field of study.


Required readings:

  1.      Fernandez-Macias, E. (2018). Automation, digitization and platforms: implications for work and employment. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Concept Paper
  2.      Cséfalvay, Z. (2021). “As ‘robots are moving out of the cages’–toward a geography of robotization.” Eurasian Geography and Economics, 1-31.

 Session N. 2 Automation, robotization and labour market inequalities: upgrading or polarization? A first perspective


In this session we will understand how automation and robotization have shaped labour market inequalities following the approach of (some but prominent) labour economists.


Required readings:

  1.       Dauth, W., Findeisen, S., Suedekum, J., and Woessner, N. (2021) “The Adjustment of Labor Markets to Robots.” Journal of the European Economic Association
  2.      Acemoglu, D., and Restrepo, P. (2020). “Robots and jobs: Evidence from US labor markets.” Journal of Political Economy128(6), 2188-2244.
  3.      Graetz, G., & Michaels, G. (2018). “Robots at work.”  Review of Economics and Statistics100(5), 753-768.


Additional readings:

  1. Acemoglu, D., and Restrepo, P. (2018). “The race between man and machine: Implications of technology for growth, factor shares, and employment.” American Economic Review, 108(6), 1488-1542.
  2. Grigoli, F., Koczan, Z., & Topalova, P. (2020). “Automation and labor force participation in advanced economies: Macro and micro evidence.” European Economic Review, 126, 103443..


 Session N. 3 Automation, robotization and labour market inequalities: upgrading or polarization? Alternative perspectives

(6/02/2023, h. 14:30-17:30)

In this session we will cover the literature about the relationship of automation and labour market inequalities from alternative perspectives.


Required readings:

  1.  Fernandez-Macias, E., Klenert, D., and Anton, J. I. (2021). “Not so disruptive yet? Characteristics, distribution and determinants of robots in Europe.” Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, 58, 76-89..
  2. Oesch, D., & Piccitto, G. (2019). “The polarization myth: Occupational upgrading in Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, 1992–2015.” Work and Occupations, 46(4), 441-469.


 Additional readings:

  1.      Haslberger, M. (2021). “Routine-biased technological change does not always lead to polarisation: Evidence from 10 OECD countries, 1995–2013.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 74, 100623.


 Session N. 4 How institutions shape (and are shaped by) the socio-economic consequences of automation

(10/02/2023, h. 14-17)

The fourth session will look at when and how the institutional setting weakens or strengths new and old labor market inequalities associated with recent technological change.


Required readings:

  1. Lim, S. (2020). “Embedding technological transformation: the welfare state and citizen attitudes toward technology.” European Political Science Review, 12(1), 67-89.
  2. Traverso, S., Vatiero, M., & Zaninotto, E. (2021). “Robots and Labor Regulation: A Cross-Country/Cross-Industry Analysis.” Cross-Industry Analysis.

Session N. 5 Workers’ wellbeing and automation

(17/02/2023, h. 10-13)

The fifth session will address the impact of automation on the wellbeing of workers. It will also focuses on how different types of effects relate to each other  


Required readings:

  1. Dekker, F., Salomons, A. and van der Waal, J. 2017. “Fear of robots at work: the role of economic self-interest.” Socio-Economic Review, 15(3), 539-562.
  1.      Nazareno, L., & Schiff, D. S. (2021). “The impact of automation and artificial intelligence on worker well-being.” Technology in Society, 67, 101679.


Additional readings:

  1. Busemeyer, M. R., and Sahm, A. H. (2021). “Social Investment, Redistribution or Basic Income? Exploring the Association Between Automation Risk and Welfare State Attitudes in Europe.” Journal of Social Policy, 1-20.
  2. Dodel, M., and Mesch, G. S. (2020). “Perceptions about the impact of automation in the workplace.” Information, Communication & Society, 23(5), 665-680.


 Session N. 6 The interplay between automation, inequalities and family dynamics

(22/02/2023, h. 10-13)

This session will focus on how technological change and household dynamics are deeply interrelated.

Required readings:

  1.  Anelli, M., Giuntella, O., and Stella, L. (2019). “Robots, labor markets, and family behavior.” IZA Working Papers.
  2.  Aksoy, C. G., Özcan, B., & Philipp, J. (2021). Robots and the gender pay gap in Europe. European Economic Review134, 103693.
  3. Dorn, D., & Hanson, G. (2019). “When work disappears: Manufacturing decline and the falling marriage market value of young men.” American Economic Review: Insights1(2), 161-78.
  4. Ruggles, S. (2015). “Patriarchy, power, and pay: The transformation of American families, 1800–2015.” Demography, 52(6), 1797-1823.

Session N. 7 Technological change and labor dynamics in a global perspective

(24/02/2023, h. 10-13)

The seventh session will address the impact of automation from a global perspective. It will also focus on how automation and migration processes are interconnected. Lastly we will review perspectives on the future of work in the digital era.


Required readings:

  1.      Berge, J., & Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (2021). “Immigrant-Biased Technological Change: The Effect of New Technology Implementation on Native and Non-Western Immigrant Employment in the Netherlands.” Social Forces
  2. Herrigel, G. (2020). “Industrial possibilities and false necessity: rethinking production, employment and labor dynamics in the global economy.” Socio-Economic Review, 18(2), 599-624
  3. Autor, D., Mindell, D. and Reynolds E (2002). The Work of the Future. Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines. MIT. https://workofthefuture. mit. edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2020-Final-Report. pdf vom, 18, 2020
  4. Kenney, M., Bearson, D., and Zysman, J. (2021). “The platform economy matures: measuring pervasiveness and exploring power." Socio-Economic Review.

Educational aims

Goals: By the end of the course, students will be able to critically analyze the dynamic and complex relationship between technology, work and society.