Senior economics reporter
Robots made by Fanuc Ltd. at an exhibition in Tokyo.
There’s good news and bad news about robots, according to new research made public on Monday.
In the plus column, robots create more jobs than they destroy, according to the new study by David Autor, an economics professor at MIT.
It’s not all positive, of course.
Technological progress does reduce labor’s share of the economic pie, Autor found.
Using cross-industry and cross-country data, covering four decades, the study found technological progress “has been employment-augmenting but laborshare-displacing,” Autor said, in the paper circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
On jobs, Autor argues that researchers had previously paid too much attention to the specific settings in which robots are introduced. But downstream, among the suppliers, there is a boost of productivity that increases final demand and spurs employment across all sectors, he said.
But at the same time productivity reduces workers’ share of economic gains in the specific industry where robots are introduced, and there are no offsetting indirect effects.
Labor’s share of national income has fallen across many economies in recent decades, and experts say the trend may have become more pronounced in the coming years. Autor said his research provided no answer as to why this trend was accelerating.