Robots vs jobs is a debate as old as time. MIT economist Daron Acemoglu recently added some fuel to the fire with his three-part series that puts a number on the job costs of automation. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) is now pushing back, calling Acemoglu’s research “wrong.”
The IFR said increase use of robotics is having a positive impact around the world. Within five years, the global operational stock rose by about 65% to 2.4 million units (2013-2018), according to the IFR. For the same period of time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a positive impact on the job market: Employment in the automotive industry – the largest adopter of robots – increased by 22% from 824,400 to 1,005,000 jobs.
“These facts contradict the conclusions recently published by MIT´s news office on economist Daron Acemoglu´s research,” the IFR said in a statement. “Based on data between 1990 to 2007, he deduces an overall negative effect of robots on employment in blue-collar working communities in the US. Yet, recent experience in the US, Europe and Asia proves the opposite: robot adoption will likely be a critical determinant of productivity growth for the post-COVID-19 economy.”
Research by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows companies that employ technology effectively are 10 times more productive than those that do not.
“The impact of automation on employment is not in any respect different from previous waves of technology-driven change,” said Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Productivity increases and competitive advantages of automation don´t replace jobs – they will automate tasks, augment jobs and create new ones.”
Companies around the globe are reassessing their global supply chain business models in reaction to the lessons learned from the novel coronavirus. This will likely accelerate the introduction of robots, leading to a renaissance of industrial production in some regions – and bringing back jobs.
After the crisis ends, the IFR said it expects a considerable boost for robotics and automation, even if the industry cannot currently decouple itself from the economic downturn.