Labour's robot tax would hamper Britain's growth: We need more robots, not fewer, claims new Centre for Policy Studies report

Catherine Neilan
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If anything, we need more robots, the report argues (Source: Getty)

Labour's plans to impose a "robot tax" would impede productivity growth, depress wage growth and cause a brain drain from the country, a new report claims.

Think tank the Centre for Policy Studies argues that a tax as mooted by Jeremy Corbyn at last month's Labour conference would dissuade businesses from developing new technologies, but claims that "if anything, the UK's problem is too few robots, not too many".

The report notes that in the UK there are only 71 robots for every 10,000 employees in manufacturing, compared with more than 300 in Germany.

"This reflects a wider bias towards labour over capital investment across the UK economy, which contributes to Britain's productivity problems - and means that Britain could reap outsize rewards for investing in new technologies," the report notes.

Rather than increasing inequality, the report claims an increase in robots would be "employment-neutral, at least in the medium term". Skills shortages and training would better address any potential impact on the job market, and any calls for a "universal basic income" to address presumed robot-related unemployment are "premature given the current employment situation".

Daniel Mahoney, head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies and author of the study, said: “Going ahead with a robot tax or other measures that would discourage investment in capital would be hugely damaging for the UK.

"The UK already suffers from a low capital-labour ratio, which is dampening productivity growth and holding back wage increases. Corbyn’s plans would exacerbate this problem and simply encourage new technologies and economic activity to locate elsewhere.

"The result would be fewer well-paid jobs, lower wage growth and a reduced tax base to pay for public services."

A separate study published today by jobs site Indeed has found that 58 per cent of Britons are not concerned about robots stealing their jobs in the future. Just 27 per cent of people have some concern that their role might be automated in the future.

In fact, almost a third of job seekers said they would take career advice from a robot, while one in three candidates think machines can improve their chances for finding a job.

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