Why people skills matter again

Social skills have made a comeback in the labor market in the 2000s compared to the mid-1980s and 1990s, according to a new working paper published by The National Bureau of Economic Research and featured by FiveThirtyEight.com.

The paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows that jobs with high social skill requirements grew 10 percent from 1980 to 2012, while more math-intensive, less-social job opportunities declined by 3 percent over the same time period. Many of the jobs in decline included STEM jobs, according to the paper.

The paper uses a model that shows social skills can help "reduce coordination costs, allowing workers to specialize and trade more efficiently," the author wrote. This may explain the shift in growth of jobs requiring high social skills. An analysis of the paper by FiveThirtyEight.com suggests this growth may also be because many mathematics-related jobs can be automated, while those requiring people skills often cannot. "[C]omputers aren't good at simulating human interaction," the paper's author, David Deming, PhD, an associate professor of economics at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard, told FiveThirtyEight.

Luckily for those in the healthcare field, the paper suggests the best jobs are those that require both cognitive and social skills. Those types of jobs experienced strong employment and wage growth over the study period.

One other interesting finding: Women tend to fill the jobs requiring more social skills. As jobs requiring people skills have grown, so has the breakdown of the type of tasks women perform at work — while men's tasks have remained relatively unchanged.

Read more here.


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