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TitleTechnology, skills and the transformation of work : implications for the training provision for ...
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Document Text Contents
Page 1

TECHNOLOGY, SKILLS AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF WORK:

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE TRAINING PROVISION FOR BRAZILIAN .

OFFICE WORKERS

Ana Maria Lakomy

Dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

PhD in Education at the Institute of Education University of London

Department of Policy Studies

Institute of Education University of London

1995

BIEL
LOREN.
UNA/.

Page 2

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the process of office automation in Brazil
and its skills and training outcomes. The thesis combines a theoretical analysis
with an empirical study undertaken in Brazil.

Following an introductory chapter, Chapter 2 discusses and analyses
two existing theoretical perspectives which address the relationship between
technology, work organisation and skills. These are: the labour process
approach with reference to the 'deskilling thesis' developed by Harry
Braverman (1974) and the 'flexible specialisation thesis' based on Michael
Piore and Charles Sabel (1984). They focus on technological changes on the
shopfloor, in advanced industrialised countries.

Chapter 3 applies the main arguments put forward by these two •
approaches to the office environment in advanced industrialised countries.
Based on the discussion of a number of empirical studies concerned with the
skill outcomes of new technology in the office, the chapter also develops two
models of office automation: the 'technology-driven' and the 'informational'
models. These models are used as a framework for the discussion of the
empirical research undertaken in Brazilian offices.

Chapter 4 discusses the recent economic developments in Brazil in
order to provide a context for understanding the empirical findings. The
chapter describes the country's process of industrialisation, the current
economic context and its implications for the adoption of new technology in
the Brazilian office environment.

Chapter 5 focuses on the empirical research conducted in Brazilian
offices and training agencies. It describes the perspectives of managers, office
workers and deputy directors of training agencies with regard to technology,
skills and training. The chapter then analyses these perspectives in the light of
the two theoretical models of office automation developed in Chapter 3.

Chapter 6 summarises the main conclusions of this thesis, and draws
some implications for training policies in Brazil.

Page 167

competition. On the other hand, it was accompanied by the expansion of an

internal consumption market through the adoption of a number of measures .

like wage concession and credit facilities offered to consumers (Cardoso,

1975, 1980).

Fourthly, the process of industrialisation led to the so-called

'internationalisation of the internal market' (Cardoso, 1975). The

'internationalisation' resulted from the lack of domestic capital and the

impossibility of alleviating this through wage compression. The latter was

seen as restraining the middle-classes' consumption power, and hence

inhibiting the expansion of the consumer durable sector. Therefore, in order to

accumulate capital for industrial growth without retraining the consumption

power of the population, the government encouraged direct investment to the

establishment of foreign subsidiaries. During this period, industrialisation

became even more dependent on foreign investment and extensive foreign

borrowing.

Fifthly, the Brazilian industrialisation process, along the lines of the

import-substitution model, relied on the importing of foreign technology, in

particular capital-intensive technologies. These technological imports were

actively encouraged by the governments with the help of special credit

facilities for firms located in the manufacturing sector (Aragao and

Vanneman, 1990; Baer, 1987). Ferraz et al (1992) and Becker and Elger

(1992) note that this reliance on import technology led to great technological

5 Ferraz et al (1992) note that the primary aim of industrial policies during this period was the
establishment of production units, with the key parameter for Brazilian policy makers being the
'nationalisation' index of locally produced industrial goods.

167

Page 168

heterogeneity across sectors and across firms within sectors6. In other words,

even though Brazilian firms benefited from economic measures that made

easier the acquisition of foreign technology, this acquisition led to a very

diverse technical base due to differences between firms in terms of size,

geographical location, ownership structure and particular technological

strategies

However, despite achieving economic growth, Longo (1991) notes that, •

far from being a 'miracle', the emphasis on import-substitution strategies led

to an economic crisis in the 1980s. For the author, after the first (1973) and

second (1978) oil shocks, instead of engaging in an austerity adjustment

program to reduce the non-oil import bill and temporally accept low rates of

economic growth, the government continued to press on with the development

program initiated in the previous decades. Thus, despite the slow-down in

growth of exports, the rising oil prices, the growing internal inflation and the

rising international debt, the military government opted for a growth policy

that resulted in a resurgence of internal inflation and in a rapid expansion of

the country's international debt. Longo (1991) explains this governmental

choice in the beginning of the 1980s in the following way:

'The fatal mistake of the Figueiredo administration
(1979-85) was to press on with the now outdated
development programme initiated in the previous
decade. The argument used was that Brazil was
different, that through public investment, subsidies to
import-substituting industries (Proalcool, coal and
petroleum prospecting) and preferential treatment for

6 Ferraz et al (1992) argue that the uneven adoption of technology in the Brazilian economy is
characterised by the fact that, in 1982, the largest firms were responsible for more than half of the total
expenditure on technology in Brazil. For instance, in the telecommunication industry, six firms were
responsible for more than 80 per cent of expenditure and, in the machine tool industry, one firm alone
accounted for more than 90 per cent of expenditure on technology.

168

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Table 3: Some Characteristics of the Sample

Firms Sector Ownership Size Office
Automation

(in years)

A Energy N Very Large 7

B Food N Very Large 5

C Paper/Pulp M Very Large 7

D Paper/Pulp N Large 7

E Food M Large 5

F Footwear N Large 7

G Metal/Mechanics M Medium 7

H Transport N Medium 5

I Metal/Mechanics M Medium 5

J Capital Goods M Medium 7

Note: National firms are identified by the letter N while multinational
firms are identified by the letter M.

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Table 4: Educational background of office workers interviewed

Occupation No. % Educational Background

2a.Educ. % Higher Educ %

Secretary 30 30 15 50 15 50

Financial Clerk 30 30 18 60 12 40

General Clerk 40 40 24 60 16 40

Total 100 100 57 57 43 43

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