Companies use robots when human workers are hard to find

Companies use robots when human workers are hard to find

17. September 2021 0 By Horst Buchwald

Companies use robots when human workers are hard to find

San Francisco, 9/17/2021

Business experts claim: Robots are used by companies primarily when human labor is scarce. That’s the conclusion of a stuidie by researchers at MIT and Boston University.

The authors, Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, have both studied automation, robots and the workforce in depth and have published numerous papers both jointly and separately.

“Our findings suggest that much of the investment in robotics is not because it is the next ‘amazing frontier,’ but because there is a shortage of workers in some countries, particularly middle-aged workers needed to do the job,” Acemoglu said in a statement.

The study found that automation rates differ depending on the ratio of workers over 56 years old compared to 21- to 55-year-olds in a country. The age of the workforce alone determined whether robots were used 35 percent of the time in 60 different countries, and what type of robot was used 20 percent of the time.

Expanding the analysis to 129 countries and beyond the use of robots, the researchers found similar results for automation technologies such as numerically controlled machines or automated machine tools.

The study’s findings revealed interesting country-specific differences in technology adoption. South Korea, with its rapidly aging population, has adopted robotics on a large scale. Germany has done so in response to labor shortages. In the United States, on the other hand, robots have been introduced in metropolitan areas where the population is aging faster, using automation mainly as a cost-cutting measure, pushing younger workers out of the workforce.

“This is one possible explanation for why in South Korea, Japan and Germany – the leaders in robot investment and the fastest aging countries in the world – the labor market situation is not as bad as in the U.S.,” Agemoglu said.

As an aside, the two became curious about patent data. And sure enough, they found a “strong correlation” between an aging workforce and automation patents. Which, as Agemoglu put it, “makes sense.”

The researchers aren’t done yet. Next, they plan to study the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce and the relationship between automation and economic inequality.

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