Human technology

As workers age, robots take on more jobs – study

September 16 (Reuters) – Robots turn out to take the fastest jobs in the world in places where their human counterparts age fastest.

That’s the conclusion of a new study that looked at demographics and industry data in 60 countries and found a strong link between an aging workforce – defined as the ratio of workers aged 56 and over , compared to those aged 21 to 55 – and use robots, focusing especially on industrial settings.

Research has shown that age alone accounted for 35% of the variation between countries in their adoption of robots, with those with older workers being much more likely to adopt the machines.

“Aging is a huge part of the story” in robot adoption, said Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who conducted the study with Pascual Restrepo of Boston University.

The research matches a long-standing trend of countries such as South Korea and Germany – both of which have very rapidly aging workforces – also being among the world’s fastest users of robots, in based on the number of robots per human worker they deploy.

“The United States has a huge technological advantage in a bunch of areas – including software and (artificial intelligence),” Acemoglu said. “But in robots, it’s Germany, Japan and recently South Korea that are more advanced.”

Of the top 15 robotics companies in the world, seven are based in Japan and seven in Germany, Acemoglu said.

Researchers found a similar pattern within the US economy – metropolitan areas that have an older workforce also saw great adoption of robots after 1990.

The study looked at 700 US subways and used the number of robot “integrators” – companies specializing in the installation and maintenance of industrial robots – as an indicator of local robotics activity. They found that a 10 percentage point increase in the aging of a local population resulted in a 6.45 percentage point increase in the presence of these integrators.

Reporting by Timothy Aeppel in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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