Definition: De-skilling is the process of using technology and the fragmentation of work in order to lower the breadth and depth of skills possessed by workers.
In the early stages of industrial capitalism, production workers were generally highly skilled in all areas of the production process. This gave them considerable leverage and power because it was difficult to replace them. As mass production technology grew, however, assembly lines were used to make production cheaper and to fragment the work process so that each worker focused on a narrower range of tasks requiring less training. As a result, workers today are more easily replaced.