(Digital) Product Design and Shifting Job Requirements in the High-Tech Industry
Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam
In the 1970s, contemporaries observed a fundamental shift in job requirements. According to a widely accepted interpretation, “knowledge” substituted industrial work as the crucial factor of economic performance. Hence, intellectual labor and mental abilities became more important.
Yet, while being linked to cognitive abilities, physical labor – and changing bodily requirements – continued to shape everyday working life in blue-collar and even white-collar occupations.
This project analyzes how job requirements in three high-tech industries (automobiles, pharmaceutics, ICT) shifted in the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1970s. How did these changes affect the workload, the job requirements as well as the physical and psychological pressure on workers and employees? What where the consequences for the workers’ and employee’s efficiency? For instance, it will be reviewed how scientists and industry representatives described and conceptualized the changes in the design and development of products.
Furthermore, the methods used by both groups to measure, to assess, and to regulate the performance of physical and intellectual labor will be discussed. Where did the experts locate the potential to increase efficiency? On the other hand, the project will review the changes in the work environment: Which measures did companies implement in order to regulate and control the working subjects? How should this prevent stress and increase efficiency?
The project focusses on three different business units and occupational groups: 1) engineers, scientists and IT experts in research and development; 2) employees in management, marketing and controlling; 3) the workers in selected branches of manufacturing.
In order to be able to identify the specificity of the developments in Germany, the project will include asymmetric comparisons with East Germany as well as the United States and France.