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Robots on pace to eliminate 20M+ manufacturing jobs by 2030

Factory automation with industrial robots for palletizing food products like bread and toast at a bakery in Germany, robotics. (KUKA Roboter Gmbh/Wikimedia Commons)
July 02, 2019

A new study revealed that by the year 2030, robots could claim more than 20 million manufacturing jobs across the globe.

Economists from Oxford Economics examined long-standing trends of workplace automation and found that in the past 20 years, the use of robots has tripled to 2.25 million globally, a pace that could eliminate more than 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030, according to the report released last week.

The number of robots once employed in the workplace over an eight-year span can now be amassed in four years. Researchers say that while the growing use of robots is beneficial for productivity and economic growth, workers are negatively impacted.

An author of the study wrote, “As a result of robotization, tens of millions of jobs will be lost, especially in poorer local economies that rely on lower-skilled workers. This will therefore translate to an increase in income inequality.”

The appeal of robots is the financial benefit. The report suggested that global GDP could increase by around five percent if robot installations were increased just 30 percent more.

“This equates to adding an extra $4.9 trillion per year to the global economy by 2030 (in today’s prices) — equivalent to an economy greater than the projected size of Germany’s,” the report said.

One of the largest impacts of this is in China, which holds one in five of the world’s global stock of robots. In China alone, the use of robots is projected to surge to 14 million in the next 11 years, while 11 million jobs will be eliminated in the same time period.

By comparison, it is estimated that robots will eliminate 1.5 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030, and two million in Europe, according to the report.

Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana were most susceptible to job loss in the U.S.

The Midlands and North West of England were Britain’s most vulnerable areas, and in Germany, those most impacted include Chemnitz, Thuringen and Oberfranken.

Researchers said, “These findings should not lead policy-makers and other stakeholders to seek to frustrate the adoption of robot technology. Instead the challenge should be to distribute the robotics dividend more evenly by helping vulnerable workers prepare for and adapt to the upheaval it will bring.”

Instead, the researchers suggest governments offer financial incentives to businesses and employees who retrain employees, and for legislators to develop “aggressive, forward-thinking programs” to offset the adverse effects of robotics.

The report added, “Explore all policy options, from infrastructure investments to training initiatives and innovative welfare programs such as universal basic income.”

Researchers concluded with a warning: “Adopt a ‘lifetime learning’ mindset. There are no jobs for life.”