Two charts showing why more robots won't destroy jobs

Jessica Morris
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More robots won't lead to less jobs (Source: Getty)

Some say robots play a vital role in boosting an economy's productivity, and improve the quality of jobs it offers. And yet, others worry we're teetering on the edge of a robot revolution, in which bankers, clerks, cleaners and a whole host of other jobs will be filled by strange, semi-human machines.

What do developments in the manufacturing industry have to say about this? Most economies across the globe have a low, or even shrinking, share of manufacturing jobs. At the same, such firms are increasingly embracing the use of robots in the workplace.

But apparently these two trends aren't linked, according to researchers Scott Andes and Mark Muro over at Washington-based think tank Brookings Institute.

Source: Graetz and Michaels and authors’ analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data

The above chart shows there's no relationship between how many robots a country uses, and employment levels in its manufacturing industry. Despite using far more robots between 1993 and 2007, Germany only lost 19 per cent of its manufacturing jobs between 1996 and 2012, compared to a 33 per cent fall in the US.

And yet the United Kingdom and Australia invested less in robots, but saw faster declines in employment in their manufacturing sectors.

Source: Graetz and Michaels and authors’ analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

And if you need more assurance, this chart shows the number of manufacturing jobs countries would've lost if it was proportional to the increase in the number of robots.

"The lesson is that the net impacts of automation on employment in manufacturing are not simple, and at least during the time frame studied here they cannot be said to have caused job losses," they said.

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