Companies put robots to work when human workers are hard to find, argue economists • The Register

Researchers have found that corporate adoption of robots and other forms of automation is largely due to labor shortages.

A study, written by boffins at MIT and Boston University, will be published in an upcoming print edition of The Journal of Economic Studies. The authors, Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, have both studied automation, robots and the workforce in depth, publishing many articles together and separately.

“Our results suggest that a good deal of investment in robotics is not driven by the fact that this is the next ‘unbelievable frontier’, but because some countries have labor shortages. , especially the middle-aged workforce that would be needed for blue-collar work, ”Acemoglu said in a canned statement.

The study found that automation adoption rates differ according to the national ratio of workers over 56 to those aged 21 to 55. what type of robot was used 20 percent of the time.

Expanding the outlook to 129 countries and beyond robots, the researchers found similar results for automation technologies, such as CNC machines or automated machine tools.

The results of the study revealed interesting variations from country to country on the adoption of the technology. South Korea, with its aging population, has largely adopted robotics. Germany did so in response to labor shortages. The United States, on the other hand, has adopted robots in metropolitan areas where the population is aging faster, but has primarily used automation as a cost-cutting measure, removing young employees from the workforce.

“This is a potential explanation why South Korea, Japan and Germany – the leaders in investing in robots and the fastest aging countries in the world – have not seen results in the market. work [as bad] than those in the United States, ”Agemoglu said.

As a side quest, the pair took an interest in patent data. Indeed, they found a “strong association” between an aging workforce and automation patents. Which, as Agemoglu says, “makes sense”.

The boffins are not finished. They then plan to probe the effects of AI on the workforce and the relationship between automation and economic inequality. ®

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