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Is an Army of Robots Marching on Chinese Jobs?

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  • Giuntella, Osea

    () (University of Pittsburgh)

  • Wang, Tianyi

    () (University of Pittsburgh)

Abstract

A handful of studies have investigated the effects of robots on workers in advanced economies. According to a recent report from the World Bank (2016), 1.8 billion jobs in developing countries are susceptible to automation. Given the inability of labor markets to adjust to rapid changes, there is a growing concern that the effect of automation and robotization in emerging economies may increase inequality and social unrest. Yet, we still know very little about the impact of robots in developing countries. In this paper we analyze the effects of exposure to industrial robots in the Chinese labor market. Using aggregate data from Chinese prefectural cities (2000-2016) and individual longitudinal data from China, we find a large negative impact of robot exposure on employment and wages of Chinese workers. Effects are concentrated in the state-owned sector and are larger among low-skilled, male, and prime-age and older workers. Furthermore, we find evidence that exposure to robots affected internal mobility and increased the number of labor-related strikes and protests.

Suggested Citation

  • Giuntella, Osea & Wang, Tianyi, 2019. "Is an Army of Robots Marching on Chinese Jobs?," IZA Discussion Papers 12281, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp12281
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Georg Graetz & Guy Michaels, 2018. "Robots at Work," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 100(5), pages 753-768, December.
    2. Dauth, Wolfgang & Findeisen, Sebastian & Südekum, Jens & Wößner, Nicole, 2017. "German robots - the impact of industrial robots on workers," IAB Discussion Paper 201730, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    3. Dani Rodrik, 2016. "Premature deindustrialization," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 1-33, March.
    4. Berg, Andrew & Buffie, Edward F. & Zanna, Luis-Felipe, 2018. "Should we fear the robot revolution? (The correct answer is yes)," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 117-148.
    5. Wiljan van den Berge, 2019. "Automatic Reaction – What Happens to Workers at Firms that Automate?," CPB Discussion Paper 390, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    6. Lukas Schlogl & Andy Sumner, 2018. "The Rise of the Robot Reserve Army: Automation and the Future of Economic Development, Work, and Wages in Developing Countries," Working Papers 487, Center for Global Development.
    7. Manoj Atolia & Prakash Loungani & Milton Marquis & Chris Papageorgiou, 2018. "Rethinking Development Policy: Deindustrialization, Servicification and Structural Transformation," IMF Working Papers 18/223, International Monetary Fund.
    8. Hong Cheng & Hanbing Fan & Takeo Hoshi & Dezhuang Hu, 2019. "Do Innovation Subsidies Make Chinese Firms More Innovative? Evidence from the China Employer Employee Survey," NBER Working Papers 25432, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Joel Mokyr & Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2015. "The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 31-50, Summer.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    emerging economies; labor markets; robots;

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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