Liuchun Deng, Verena Plümpe, Jens Stegmaier, 16 January 2021

Robots will shape the future of labour. This column uses a large-scale, plant-level survey to provide the first microscopic portrait of robotisation in Germany, the country with the highest robot density in Europe. The findings reveal substantial within-industry heterogeneity – robot use remains relatively rare and its distribution highly skewed. Factors that influence a plant’s decision to adopt robots include size, skill composition, labour costs, and exporter status. New adopters have contributed substantially to the recent growth in Germany’s robotisation.

Elisabetta Gentile, Sébastien Miroudot, Gaaitzen De Vries, Konstantin M. Wacker, 08 October 2020

Rapid improvements in robot capabilities have fuelled concerns about the implications for jobs. This column examines the effect robots have had on jobs in industries across high-income and emerging countries from 2005 to 2015. The rise in robot adoption relates to a fall in the employment share of occupations that are intensive in routine tasks. This relation is observed in high-income countries, but not in emerging market and transition economies.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 20 August 2020

How should public policy respond to the impact of automation on the demand for labour? This column uses a theoretical model of automation to study whether it is optimal to tax robots. It finds that it is optimal to tax robots in the short run but not in the long run in order to protect current routine workers who cannot acquire non-routine skills, while incentivising those in the future to acquire non-routine skills. 

Cevat Giray Aksoy, Berkay Ozcan, Julia Philipp, 16 July 2020

At a moment when policymakers are putting increased efforts into tackling gender gaps in the labour market, it is worth asking whether robotization could worsen pay disparities between men and women. Using new evidence from 20 European countries, this column finds that men at medium- and high-skill occupations disproportionately benefit from robotisation, especially in countries where gender inequality was already severe. The authors recommend that governments pay attention to automation’s distributional issues, and increase their efforts to equip women and men equally with the skills most relevant for future employability. 

David Bloom, Klaus Prettner, 25 June 2020

Over the last decade there has been a tremendous progress in automation. Many tasks previously seen as un-automatable can now be performed without human labour, and the number of industrial robots in use has increased sharply. This column describes the recent trends in automation and argues that its principal effects are to increase output per capita at the expense of rising inequality. Advancing technologies have mainly replaced the routine tasks of low-skilled workers, while the incomes robots generate flow to wealthier capital owners. The current COVID-19 pandemic is likely to reinforce these trends, raising the need for a policy response.

David Klenert, Enrique Fernández-Macías, José-Ignacio Antón, 24 February 2020

Opinion polls reveal that Europeans are greatly concerned about the economic consequences of advanced technologies, but our understanding of this relationship is still incomplete. This column assesses the impact of one such technology – industrial robots – on employment in Europe over the last two decades. Combining industry-level data on employment with data on robot adoption, it finds that robot use is linked to a small but significant increase in employment. Contrary to some previous studies, it does not find evidence of robots reducing the share of low-skill workers across Europe.

James Bessen, 12 September 2019

Do industries shed or create jobs when they adopt new labour-saving technologies? This column shows that manufacturing employment grew along with productivity for a century or more, and only later decreased. It argues that the changing nature of demand was behind this pattern, which led to market saturation. This implies that the main impact of automation in the near future may be a major reallocation of jobs, not necessarily massive job losses.

Michael Koch, Ilya Manuylov, Marcel Smolka, 01 July 2019

The rise of robots has sparked an intense debate about the labour market effects of their adoption. This column explores differences in robot adoption across firms and analyses the labour market effects of robot adoption at the firm level. It reveals a productivity-enhancing reallocation of labour and market shares across firms, with robot-adopting firms creating new job opportunities and expanding their scale of operations, while non-adopters experience negative output and employment effects in the face of tougher competition.

Robert Shiller, 12 March 2019

Jobs help to define a person's relationship to society and to self; with the threat that AI poses to jobs comes a fear of losing one's identity. Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller of Yale University argues that economists should focus more on the 'meaning of life' and look beyond the figures on the page.

Simeon Djankov, Federica Saliola, 23 November 2018

Over the last century, technology has created more jobs than it has displaced. This column presents an overview of ways in which technology and innovation are changing the nature of work, leading to demand for advanced cognitive skills and greater adaptability among workers. The rise of platform marketplaces is also changing the way people work and the terms on which they work, which requires a rethinking of social protection systems.

Aleh Tsyvinski, Nicolas Werquin, 09 July 2018

Many economic disruptions create winners and losers. This column presents an analytical formula for tax reform to offset welfare losses by redistributing the winners’ gains when tax instruments are distortionary and wages are endogenous. It shows how the model can be applied to empirical data, for example to offset the impact of robots in the US and Germany.

Keisuke Kondo, 24 March 2018

Technological innovations, while providing many efficiencies, have started to substitute some jobs. This column discusses how individuals, firms, and policymakers can interact in order to best utilise human capital for valuable work, while AI and robots are used to automate those jobs that are less desirable or where labour shortages currently exist.

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, Hans-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.

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