NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The conventional wisdom is that automation has caused mass layoffs, at least in the U.S. manufacturing sector. But an article Tuesday finds little evidence that robots are putting people out of work.
Germany, for example, uses over three times as many robots as the United States (relative to the size of its industry). Yet the German economy shed just 19% of its manufacturing jobs between 1996 and 2012, compared to a 33% drop in the United States.
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, uses roughly half the robots as the United States, yet has seen its manufacturing employment fall by nearly 50%.
The report, published in the Harvard Business Review, found the same pattern — or lack thereof — among eight other industrialized nations.
“There is, as yet, essentially no visible relationship between the use of robots and the change in manufacturing employment,” wrote authors Mark Muro and Scott Andes, fellows at the Brookings Institution.
The report did note that robots have increased productivity. It also said the robotic revolution is relatively young, and its full effects may not be visible for a generation or more.
The authors did not comment on what may be responsible for the decline in manufacturing jobs. Plenty of others have offered theories, which range from a decline in union membership and poor education to high taxes and regulations.
By Steve Hargreaves