Jörg Mayer, 11 October 2017

Most of the current debate on the threat of robots focuses on developed countries, but robotisation clearly also concerns developing countries. This column examines whether robots will reduce the familiar benefits of industrialisation as a development strategy. It argues that robots are not yet suitable for a range of labour-intensive industries, leaving the door open for developing countries to enter industrialisation processes along traditional lines. At the same time, it suggests ways that developing countries should embrace the digital revolution.

Wolfgang Dauth, Sebastian Findeisen, Jens Südekum, Nicole Woessner, 19 September 2017

Recent research has shown that industrial robots have caused severe job and earnings losses in the US. This column explores the impact of robots on the labour market in Germany, which has many more robots than the US and a much larger manufacturing employment share. Robots have had no aggregate effect on German employment, and robot exposure is found to actually increase the chances of workers staying with their original employer. This effect seems to be largely down to efforts of work councils and labour unions, but is also the result of fewer young workers entering manufacturing careers.

Bruno Caprettini, Joachim Voth, 09 May 2017

Over the last 200 years, new machines have increasingly replaced humans, and even advanced tasks like speech recognition and translation can now be performed by relatively cheap computers and smartphones. This column describes how labour-saving technology appeared to play a key role in one of the most dramatic cases of labour unrest in recent history – the Swing riots in England during the 1830s – serving as a reminder of how disruptive new, labour-saving technologies can be in economic, social, and political terms.

Daron Acemoğlu, Pascual Restrepo, 10 April 2017

As robots and other computer-assisted technologies take over tasks previously performed by labour, there is increasing concern about the future of jobs and wages. This column discusses evidence that industrial robots reduced employment and wages between 1990 and 2007. Estimates suggest that an extra robot per 1,000 workers reduces the employment to population ratio by 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5%. This effect is distinct from the impacts of imports, the decline of routine jobs, offshoring, other types of IT capital, or the total capital stock. 

Guy Michaels, Georg Graetz, 18 March 2015

Robots may be dangerous not only to the action heroes of cinema, but also to the average manufacturing worker. This column analyses the effect robots have had in 14 industries across 17 developed countries from 1993 to 2007. Industrial robots increase labour productivity, total factor productivity, and wages. While they don’t significantly change total hours worked, they may be a threat to low- and middle-skilled workers.

Events