Robots substitute routine duties carried out by employees

Robots replace routine tasks performed by workers

Elisabetta Gentile, Sébastien Miroudot, Gaaitzen De Vries, Konstantin M. Wacker 08 October 2020

If something, the Covid-19 pandemic has made many people realise that automation goes to develop into a higher a part of our work. The principle drivers of automation was once effectivity and productiveness, however well being and security considerations have now been added to that listing. But, fast enhancements within the capabilities of robots may additionally outcome within the alternative of employees in a widening vary of duties. That has triggered widespread considerations about potential impacts on jobs (Acemoğlu and Restrepo 2018, Dauth et al. 2019). The attainable acceleration of automation attributable to Covid-19 has put additional impetus to this debate (Seric and Winkler 2020).

In a latest paper, Graetz and Michaels (2018) discover that robots contribute to productiveness development throughout industries in high-income international locations. However robotic adoption doesn’t cut back employment. If robots don’t have any impression on the general degree of employment, the query is whether or not they have an effect on employment in different methods (e.g. Marin 2014, Faia et al. 2020). Knowledge limitations didn’t enable Graetz and Michaels (2018) to look at the impression of robots on employees that carry out totally different duties. In a brand new paper (de Vries et al. 2020), we empirically research the impression of business robots on the occupational construction of the workforce throughout manufacturing industries in a set of high-income in addition to rising economies.

A job perspective on manufacturing

Companies produce quite a lot of merchandise utilizing a continuum of duties. Employees differ of their comparative benefit in performing duties (Acemoglu and Autor 2011). For instance, well-trained engineers have the proper abilities to carry out non-routine analytic duties, comparable to those who require drawback fixing. We use detailed knowledge on the occupations of employees and group these into “routine” or “non-routine” and additional into “analytic” or “handbook”, primarily based on the prevalence of duties carried out on the job. Examples for this occupational classification are given in Desk 1.

Desk 1 Mapping of occupations to duties (examples)

To supply an combination image of the kind of jobs prevalent in a given nation, we sum over the totally different industries and calculate the employment share of occupations by job kind. Determine 1 exhibits the share level change within the employment shares by nation between 2005 and 2015. These international locations symbolize economies in our dataset at totally different ranges of financial improvement. But, in most international locations the share of routine duties has fallen – by about 4 proportion factors on common.

Determine 1 Modifications in employment shares by job kind, 2005-2015

Notes: Change in employment share by job kind and nation between 2005 and 2015. For aggregation, industries included within the pattern are weighted utilizing their 2005 employment share throughout the pattern for every nation. International locations are sorted primarily based on the change within the routine handbook employment share. 

Robots seem significantly suited to carry out routine handbook duties, comparable to sealing, assembling, and dealing with instruments. Our speculation is subsequently that elevated use of robots is extra more likely to have affected occupations that carry out comparatively extra routine handbook duties – that’s, latest technological advances have been biased, changing employees in a widening vary of (primarily) routine duties. Moreover, from this line of thought additionally follows a risk to deal with endogeneity issues within the empirical evaluation: the proportion of duties in an business that would probably get replaced by robots could function an instrumental variable for precise robotic use.

The rise of robots and the autumn of routine jobs

We analyse the impact of robots on the employment shares of occupations throughout 19 manufacturing industries in 37 high-income and rising international locations. Much like Graetz and Michaels (2018) and Dauth et al. (2019), we don’t discover an impact of elevated robotic use on complete employment. In distinction, elevated use of robots has a unfavourable impression on the share of occupations which are intensive in routine duties, particularly handbook routine duties. This impact is of appreciable magnitude: in an business with a medium adaptation of robots, the proportion of staff with routine duties drops by two proportion factors greater than in an business that didn’t set up extra robots between 2005 and 2015. The results are even bigger once we estimate utilizing instrument variables.

The impact of robots on jobs seems to be largely pushed by job content material reasonably than by training degree. For a smaller set of nations, we had been in a position to break down the group of manufacturing employees extra exactly by their routine depth. That is an attention-grabbing group to contemplate, as manufacturing employees may additionally be thought-about blue-collar employees and the impression of robots may subsequently replicate a substitution of robots for blue-collar manufacturing employees. Nonetheless, we discover that the extra weight we placed on routine duties, the bigger is the employment impression of robots for this body of workers. This means that robotic adoption is expounded to a decline within the share of occupations with the next content material of routine duties. Furthermore, it means that greater training per se shouldn’t be a ample bulwark to mitigate the impression of robots on jobs. You will need to deal with the abilities that employees study.

Do robots foster a reshoring of jobs?

Companies usually tend to undertake robots whether it is technically possible and the revenue features exceed the prices of buying and putting in the robots. Therefore, enhancements in robotic capabilities are anticipated to lead to a bigger employment response in high-income international locations, the place wages are greater in comparison with rising international locations. Certainly, we discover that robotic adoption lowers the employment share of routine handbook occupations in high-income international locations, however not in rising market and transition economies.

But, employees in rising economies may be not directly impacted by robots in high-income international locations: The adoption of robots in high-income international locations may deliver again manufacturing duties that had beforehand been offshored (Faber 2020). For instance, the brand new ‘Pace factories’ constructed by German sportswear firm Adidas in Ansbach (Germany) and Atlanta (US) produce hundreds of footwear per yr utilizing industrial robots and depend on only a handful of employees. Beforehand, such manufacturing duties would have taken place in areas with cheaper labour, comparable to Southeast Asia. According to this, Baldwin and Forslid (2020) argue that robots decrease demand for manufacturing duties worldwide, however associated technological advances in robotics and synthetic intelligence may lead to extra service duties being accomplished remotely. These days, for many people, “remotely” means duties being accomplished at dwelling however inside commuting distance from the workplace. But, remotely may additionally come to imply throughout nationwide boundaries. Clearly, we want higher measurement and understanding of the implications of latest technological advances for improvement. Offering new insights into how robots form the worldwide division of labour is a crucial space for additional analysis.


Acemoglu, D and D Autor (2011), “Expertise, duties and applied sciences: implications for employment and earnings”, chapter 12 in D Card and O Ashenfelter (eds), Handbook of Labour Economics Vol. 4-B, 1043–1171, Elsevier. 

Acemoglu, D and P Restrepo (2018), “The race between man and machine: Implications of expertise for development, issue shares, and employment”, American Financial Evaluate 108(6): 1488–1542 (see additionally the Vox column right here).

Baldwin, R and R Forslid (2020). “Globotics and improvement: When manufacturing is jobless and providers are tradable”, CEPR dialogue paper 14293 (see additionally the Vox column right here).

Dauth, W, S Findeisen, J Suedekum, N Woessner (2019), “The adjustment of labor markets to robots”, Mimeo College of Würzburg (see additionally the Vox column right here).

de Vries, G J, E Gentile, S Miroudot and Okay M  Wacker (2020), “The rise of robots and the autumn of routine jobs”, Labour Economics 66: 101885.

Faber, M (2020), “Robots and reshoring: Proof from Mexican labor markets”, Journal of Worldwide Economics, forthcoming.

Faia, E, S Laffitte, M Mayer and G Ottaviano (2020), “Automation, globalisation, and vanishing jobs: A labour market sorting view”,, 17 June.

Graetz, G and G Michaels (2018), “Robots at work”, Evaluate of Economics and Statistics 100(5): 753–768 (see additionally the Vox column right here).

Marin, D (2014), “Globalisation and the rise of the robots”,, 15 November.

Seric, A and D Winkler (2020), “COVID-19 may spur automation and reverse globalisation – to some extent”,, 28 April.

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