Study: Yes, robots are coming for your jobs

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
University of Dayton PhD candidate Hari Ananthanarayanan talks about the future of robotics in the Motoman Lab in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Kettering Labs.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A new study finds “large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages.”

Robots are chipping away at American workers, write the authors, Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University.

In particular, industrial robots are “anticipated to spread rapidly in the next several decades and assume tasks previously performed by labor.”

Up to 670,000 jobs so far have been taken over by robots, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research paper published this month.

The two analyzed 1990-2007 U.S. labor market data. After adjusting for economic variables such as offshoring, imports from overseas and other factors, the researchers estimate that each additional robot per thousand workers in some struggling areas decreased employment by 6.2 workers and wages by 0.7 percent.

Overall, the researchers concluded each additional robot per thousand workers reduces employment by about 0.18-0.34 percentage points and stunts wages 0.25-0.5 percent.

Here are some other key elements from the paper: 

Robots quadruple: Between 1993 and 2007, the stock of robots in the United States and Western Europe increased fourfold.

Honda workers service the robots in a welding station in the new welding facility for the 2017 Honda CRV at the East Liberty plant. Bill Lackey/Staff
Caption
Honda workers service the robots in a welding station in the new welding facility for the 2017 Honda CRV at the East Liberty plant. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A robot seals welds at Honda's East Liberty Auto Plant. Honda continues to invest in Ohio with upgrades to the plant were workers assemble Honda's CR-V and Crosstour models as well as the Acura RDX. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Caption
A robot seals welds at Honda's East Liberty Auto Plant. Honda continues to invest in Ohio with upgrades to the plant were workers assemble Honda's CR-V and Crosstour models as well as the Acura RDX. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Most manufacturing autos: The automotive industry employs 39 percent of existing industrial robots, followed by the electronics industry (19 percent), metal products (9 percent) and the plastic and chemicals industry (9 percent).

Jobs dwindle: The number of jobs lost due to robots has been limited to between 360,000 and 670,000 jobs, equivalent to a 0.18-0.34 percentage point decline in employment.

Will quadruple again: The International Federation of Robotics estimates there are between 1.5 and 1.75 million industrial robots in current operation, a number that could increase 4 to 6 million by 2025, according to another study.

Further employment reduction: Estimates show 5.25 more robots will be added per thousand workers in the United States between 2015 and 2025 leading to a 0.94-1.76 percent slide in employment and a 1.3-2.6 percent drop in wages growth.

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