Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will increase productivity and stimulate economic growth while creating new, higher-paying jobs, or at least that’s the argument.
But new research shows the rise of robots may not be as beneficial to workers as some complaint. Automation could have positive impacts on economic growth and productivity, economists say, but workers may not reap the rewards.
“Exposure to robots has had negative effects on employment, leading some workers to leave the workforce and increasing unemployment,” wrote University of Pittsburgh economics professors Hosea Giuntella, Tsinghua University’s Yi Lu and Tianyi Wang of the University of Toronto. at the National Bureau of Economic Research paper released earlier this month.
Economists examined the effects of industrial robots on China’s labor market using data from more than 15,000 households and found that it was struggling to “adjust” to the dramatic changes brought about by robotics.
“Exposure to robots has led to a decline in labor force participation (-1%), employment (-7.5%) and hourly wages (-9%) of Chinese workers,” they wrote. “At the same time, among those who continued to work, exposure to robots increased the number of hours worked by 14 percent.”
China has been leaning on robotics and job automation for over a decadeespecially in the industrial sector. The county has more industrial robots than any other and just this year surpassed the United States in the number of industrial robots per capita, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
But for Chinese workers, the rise of robots hasn’t always been beneficial. Take the example of Apple’s main iPhone supplier, Foxconn, which it replaced over 400,000 human jobs between 2012 and 2016 with robots in an automation push.
Economists said evidence of short-term labor market woes caused by robotics in China is strong and argued that this was particularly bad news for developing economies.
The overburden of the developing world
Workers in developing countries are likely to feel the brunt of the rise of robotics and automation in the near term, economists said.
Many emerging market economies rely heavily on agriculture and manufacturing sectors where automation and robotics are more likely to replace workers. And with a larger share of emerging market workers having only a high school education or less, it will take time for many to acquire the skills needed to benefit from the new jobs brought by robotics, artificial intelligence and automation .
“The implications of robotization in emerging markets for jobs, growth and inequality could be profound,” the economists wrote. “Without job creation, automation, digitization and labour-saving technologies can drive inequality.”
They went on to argue that developing nations could face a decision between “increased productivity and potentially greater economic inequality and social unrest” if they choose to continue automating jobs with robots.
Finally, they said there is even more research to be done into whether long-term productivity improvements from robotics and automation will one day “translate into job growth,” but for now, workers will likely continue. to lose jobs due to these new technologies.
Leave a Comment