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Robots and employment: evidence from Italy

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  • Davide Dottori

    (Banca d’Italia)

Abstract

Increased robot diffusion has raised concerns for its possible negative impact on employment. Following an empirical approach in line with those applied to the US and Germany with contrasting results, this paper provides evidence about the effect of robots on employment outcomes in Italy (second European economy for robot stock) from the early 1990s up to 2016, both at the local labour market (LLM) level and at the worker level. In order to purge from demand and other confounding shocks, the identification relies on an instrumental variables strategy based on robots’ sectoral growth in other European countries. No harmful impact on total employment emerges from the LLM analysis; the estimated effect is negative when limited to manufacturing employment, but its statistical significance is weak or absent once concurrent trends relating to trade and ICT are controlled for. Results at the worker level show that incumbent workers in manufacturing were not damaged on average, with an overall positive (though not large) employment effect, driven by longer working relationships with the original firm; conditional on remaining at the original firm, the impact is also positive on wages. On the other hand, robot diffusion turns out to have contributed to reshaping the sectoral distribution of the new labour force inflows towards less robot intensive industries.

Suggested Citation

  • Davide Dottori, 2021. "Robots and employment: evidence from Italy," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 38(2), pages 739-795, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:epolit:v:38:y:2021:i:2:d:10.1007_s40888-021-00223-x
    DOI: 10.1007/s40888-021-00223-x
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    7. Bürgisser, Reto, 2023. "Policy Responses to Technological Change in the Workplace," SocArXiv kwxn2, Center for Open Science.
    8. Benjamin Lerch, 2021. "From Blue to Steel-Collar Jobs: The Decline in Employment Gaps?," IdEP Economic Papers 2102, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
    9. Alguacil Marí, María Teresa & Lo Turco, Alessia & Martínez-Zarzoso, Inmaculada, 2020. "What is so special about robots and trade?," University of Göttingen Working Papers in Economics 410, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    10. Jurkat, Anne & Klump, Rainer & Schneider, Florian, 2023. "Robots and Wages: A Meta-Analysis," EconStor Preprints 274156, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    11. Davide Antonioli & Alberto Marzucchi & Francesco Rentocchini & Simone Vannuccini, 2022. "Robot Adoption and Innovation Activities," Munich Papers in Political Economy 21, Munich School of Politics and Public Policy and the School of Management at the Technical University of Munich.
    12. Damiani, Mirella & Pompei, Fabrizio & Kleinknecht, Alfred, 2020. "When robots do (not) enhance job quality: The role of innovation regimes," MPRA Paper 103059, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Anna Matysiak & Daniela Bellani & Honorata Bogusz, 2023. "Industrial Robots and Regional Fertility in European Countries," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 39(1), pages 1-36, December.
    14. Mauro Caselli & Andrea Fracasso & Sergio Scicchitano & Silvio Traverso & Enrico Tundis, 2021. "Stop worrying and love the robot: An activity-based approach to assess the impact of robotization on employment dynamics," DEM Working Papers 2021/06, Department of Economics and Management.
    15. Sergio De Nardis & Francesca Parente, 2022. "Technology and task changes in the major EU countries," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(2), pages 391-413, April.
    16. Josué Diwambuena & Francesco Ravazzolo, 2022. "What are the drivers of Labor Productivity?," BEMPS - Bozen Economics & Management Paper Series BEMPS86, Faculty of Economics and Management at the Free University of Bozen.
    17. Klump, Rainer & Jurkat, Anne & Schneider, Florian, 2021. "Tracking the rise of robots: A survey of the IFR database and its applications," MPRA Paper 110390, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Daria A. Starovatova, 2023. "The relationship between robots and labour productivity: Does business scale matter?," Journal of New Economy, Ural State University of Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 81-103, April.
    19. Jasmine Mondolo, 2022. "The composite link between technological change and employment: A survey of the literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(4), pages 1027-1068, September.
    20. Angelo d’Errico & Chiara Ardito & Roberto Leombruni & Fulvio Ricceri & Giuseppe Costa & Carlotta Sacerdote & Anna Odone, 2022. "Working Conditions and Health Among Italian Ageing Workers," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 162(3), pages 1043-1067, August.
    21. Filippi, Emilia & Bannò, Mariasole & Trento, Sandro, 2023. "Automation technologies and their impact on employment: A review, synthesis and future research agenda," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    22. Davide Antonioli & Alberto Marzucchi & Francesco Rentocchini & Simone Vannuccini, 2024. "Robot Adoption and Product Innovation," GREDEG Working Papers 2024-01, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France.
    23. Chen, Chinchih & Frey, Carl Benedikt & Presidente, Giorgio, 2022. "Automation or globalization? The impacts of robots and Chinese imports on jobs in the United Kingdom," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 204(C), pages 528-542.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Robot; Automation; Employment; Local labour markets; Matched employer–employee data;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L60 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes

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