Is There a Rise in the Importance of Socioemotional Skills in the Labor Market? Evidence From a Trend Study Among College Graduates

Jim Allen, Barbara Belfi, Lex Borghans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this study, we examine whether socioemotional skills have become more important in the labor market within the past 14 years. To this end, we analyze data from a unique dataset on recent graduates from Dutch professional colleges (N= 67,000). Two different indicators of skill change are investigated, namely changes in the skill level required in the labor market and changes in the wage returns to these skills. The results indicate that socioemotional skills related to knowledge and innovation such as logical reasoning and information gathering, as well as skills related to working to plan and collaboration, have undergone a significant increase in terms of labor market requirements. We also observe an increase in the required level of the work-related skills digital literacy and occupation-specific knowledge. However, significant increases in wage returns are only observed for socioemotional skills related to knowledge and innovation. The labor market importance of socioemotional skills appears to be only modestly affected by business cycle effects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1710
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2020


  • socioemotional skills
  • skill requirements
  • college graduates
  • labor market
  • trend analysis
  • wages

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