Do robots steal our work? No, they create it again


The predictions about the impact of robots in the world of work are often apocalyptic, but perhaps we could have been pessimistic. Or rather, it may not necessarily go badly, or not everywhere. The first extensive study on the effects of automation on the German economy seems to indicate, in fact, that machines not only did not steal jobs, but, overall, they created new, and better paid, jobs.

According to the research conducted by the Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany, from 2011 to 2016 the entry of robots into the German labor market led to an overall increase in employment of between 1.5 and 1, 8% (here the original document, in German).

Work at the time of robots: how will it end?

technological progress. If at the beginning the machines absorbed and speeded up a series of tasks, leading to a 5% job loss, they later generated new and better paid jobs. How is it possible? "Now that company can produce the same commodity, in a more economical way, " explains Melanie Arntz, among the authors. The product is cheaper, and more is sold, "demand increases, and more people need to be hired to satisfy it".

Image They won't always be able to do everything by themselves … Five new jobs for when robots will conquer the world | Shutterstock

Cross-valuations. The experts came to this conclusion after interviewing 2, 000 managers of as many companies in various sectors of the country's economy.

The executives had to assess the degree of automation of their companies for each year of the period considered, and the data were compared with those on about 300, 000 workers provided by the German Federal Employment Agency.

A lucky case? The mechanisms that relate to automation could be applied almost everywhere, even in countries such as England and the USA, for which the impact forecasts of the automation carried out so far sound quite alarming. But the German socio-economic situation is particularly virtuous and could have acted as a buffer, influencing the results of the study.

For example, some social safety nets could have allowed the workers left without work to access the goods sold anyway, thus avoiding a drop in demand and a contraction of the economy. As you can see, the faults (and the merits) are never just robots …