DEFINITION of Occupational Labor Mobility

Occupational labor mobility refers to the ability of workers to switch career fields in order to find gainful employment or meet labor needs. When conditions allow for high degrees of occupational labor mobility it can help maintain strong employment and productivity levels. Governments may provide occupational retraining to help workers acquire the necessary skills and expedite this process.

BREAKING DOWN Occupational Labor Mobility

Workers may not be able to pursue new career opportunities in the event of layoffs or a termination if their occupational labor mobility is limited. This can be true for workers who possess few or specialized skills that are only of use under finite circumstances. For example, a worker trained to operate a piece of machinery that only exists in one industry can face challenges seeking employment outside of that industry.

If an experienced worker who has earned a substantial salary attempts to switch career paths they may face a significant financial adjustment. This is because alternate jobs they could perform might not make use of their most developed skills. For example, a physician may have to find work as a taxi driver if no medical positions are available. Such circumstances can lead to workers and professionals taking substantially lower pay that does not reflect the years of work experience they may possess.

Ways Occupational Labor Mobility Influences Productivity

The decrease in the number of manufacturing sector jobs in favor of services-focused employment such as software development has diminished the occupational labor mobility for some workers. The U.S. automobile industry, for example, faced ongoing staff cuts as production became more efficient and required fewer workers or was relocated overseas. Domestic job eliminations left many downsized workers unable to find employment that offered compensation that compared with their previous salary levels. Workers in other types of manufacturing-based careers have also dealt with issues of limited occupational labor mobility as their industries shrank.

Public and private employment training programs have been established to give workers the opportunity to increase their occupational labor mobility by teaching them new skills. The focus of such programs is to expand the potential career paths these individuals could succeed in. Companies can benefit from the existence of such programs because they increase the pool of potential hires for current job openings.

Occupational labor mobility can especially benefit emerging, innovation-oriented businesses. Such companies can see their productivity increase when there is a growing population of workers who possess skills that are in demand. For instance, a startup company could see its development plans stall until it hires enough software coders and programmers to work on its core product.