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.

Jens Südekum, Joel Stiebale, Nicole Woessner, 30 July 2020

The claim in a 2016 report from The Economist that a small group of ‘superstar firms’ were “once again dominating the global economy'' referred mostly to American internet giants, but recent research suggests that previous decades were more broadly characterised by a reallocation of market shares towards highly productive and profitable firms, with notable implications for competition, market power, and the income distribution. This column argues that a superstar firm pattern is also present in European manufacturing, and that it is considerably stronger in manufacturing branches in which industrial robots have been on the rise. Technological change seems to be a key driver for the emergence of superstar firms.

Richard Baldwin, Rikard Forslid, 16 July 2020

Changes in working patterns inspired by Covid-19 may transform the development path of many economies. The column argues that, as we adjust to remote working, a new era of telemigration may drive demand for globalisation in services. This may be good news for many emerging economies, because they can exploit their comparative advantage in labour without having to manufacture goods.

Kemal Kilic, Dalia Marin, 10 May 2020

In the wake of the Global Crisis, uncertainty in the world economy led many firms to reassess their business models. Rather than relying on global supply chains, an increasing number of firms invested in robots, which prompted a renaissance of manufacturing in industrialised countries. This column argues that changes in the world economy due to COVID-19 make a V-shaped recovery from the coming recession unlikely. Instead, COVID-19 will accelerate the process begun after the Global Crisis by encouraging firms to re-shore activity back to rich countries.

Adnan Seric, Deborah Winkler, 28 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of global value chains. In response to supply chain risks, global lead firms have relied on Industry 4.0 technologies as well as reshoring parts of production. This column explores the potential impacts of these developments on the breadth and depth of global value chains. Automation and reshoring allow for more flexible adjustment to changing demand and the mitigation of supply-side risks. Ultimately, the implications of automation on development will depend on both the types of foreign inputs sourced as well as the relationship between robots and labour.

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.

Diane Coyle, 03 July 2019

Jacques Bughin, Christopher Pissarides , Eric Hazan, 28 May 2019

Artificial intelligence promises economic growth as well as creating fear for those whose jobs it may replace. This column takes a wider approach to examining how AI and other technologies will affect citizens’ welfare beyond just their income. It argues that the new technologies are intrinsically neither good nor bad, it is how they are deployed and how the transition is crafted that conditions the welfare dynamics of societies. 

Diane Coyle, 29 April 2019

Cevat Giray Aksoy, Ralph De Haas, 21 January 2019

Technological innovation can help to shift labour from sectors with low levels of productivity (such as agriculture) to higher-productivity sectors (manufacturing and, increasingly, services), with a profound impact on the nature of work and the types of skills that are in demand in the workplace. This column examines how this transformation is impacting jobs and employment across emerging Europe. The findings suggest that robotisation can explain only 13% of the total decline in the employment rate observed in these countries between 2010 and 2016.

David Bloom, Mathew McKenna, Klaus Prettner, 17 December 2018

Future global employment needs are of central importance for policymakers. This column estimates that, based on growth in the working-age population, labour force participation rates, and unemployment, about three quarters of a billion jobs will need to be created in 2010–2030. It also discusses how automation will add to the number of jobs required.

Hideki Nakamura, Joseph Zeira, 11 December 2018

The fear that technological innovation will increase unemployment is not new, and various theories in response suggest technology does not necessarily pose a threat to jobs. This column goes one step further, arguing that because automation requires rising wages and that requires increasing the set of labour tasks, innovation should ultimately reduce unemployment.

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.


CEPR Policy Research