The Complicated Relationship Between Robots And Workers
— January 13, 2020
By Robert Seamans
A paper by Acemoglu, Lelarge and Restrepo studied the effects of robots on employment in French manufacturing firms. The authors found that firms that adopt robots experience an increase in employment. This finding is notable for a couple reasons. First, it runs counter to the popular narrative that “robots are coming for your job.” Second, the positive relationship between robot adoption and jobs at the firm level has been documented by researchers in other countries including Canada, Denmark and Spain. In other words, the positive relationship between robot adoption and jobs at the firm level appears to be quite robust, at least in advanced economies.
Yet the authors also find that manufacturing firms are likely to experience decreases in employment when their competitors adopt robots. Moreover, they find that, in aggregate, the negative effects on employment dominate the positive effects at the firm level: even as some manufacturing firms are growing and adding jobs (the firms adopting robots), even more manufacturing firms are shrinking and losing jobs. This same result has also been found using data from Spain, but I’d argue that more work is needed to assess its robustness.
Read full Forbes article.
Robert Seamans is an Associate Professor of Management and Organizations.