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Robots, Reshoring, and the Lot of Low-Skilled Workers

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  • Krenz, Astrid
  • Prettner, Klaus
  • Strulik, Holger

Abstract

We propose a theoretical framework to analyze the offshoring and reshoring decisions of firms in the age of automation. Our theory suggests that increasing productivity in automation leads to a relocation of previously offshored production back to the home economy but without improving low-skilled wages and without creating jobs for low-skilled workers. Since it leads also to increasing wages for high-skilled workers, automation-induced reshoring is associated with an increasing skill premium and increasing inequality. We develop a measure for reshoring activity at the macro-level and, using data from the world input output table, we provide evidence for automation-driven reshoring. On average, within manufacturing sectors, an increase by one robot per 1000 workers is associated with a 3.5% increase of reshoring activity. Using robots in countries with similar sectoral structure as an instrument, we find that an increase by one robot per 1000 workers causes a 2.5% increase of reshoring activity. We also provide the first cross-country evidence that reshoring is positively associated with wages and employment for high-skilled labor but not for low-skilled labor and that tariffs increase the degree of reshoring.

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  • Krenz, Astrid & Prettner, Klaus & Strulik, Holger, 2020. "Robots, Reshoring, and the Lot of Low-Skilled Workers," GLO Discussion Paper Series 443, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:443
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    3. Stemmler, Henry, 2019. "Does automation lead to de-industrialization in emerging economies? Evidence from Brazil," University of Göttingen Working Papers in Economics 382, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    4. David E. Bloom & Michael Kuhn & Klaus Prettner, 2022. "Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 85-131, March.
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    6. de Vries, Gaaitzen J. & Gentile, Elisabetta & Miroudot, Sébastien & Wacker, Konstantin M., 2020. "The rise of robots and the fall of routine jobs," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(C).
    7. Krenz, Astrid & Strulik, Holger, 2022. "Automation and the fall and rise of the servant economy," University of Göttingen Working Papers in Economics 431, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    8. Bacchetta, Marc & Bekkers, Eddy & Piermartini, Roberta & Rubinova, Stela & Stolzenburg, Victor & Xu, Ankai, 2021. "COVID-19 and global value chains: A discussion of arguments on value chain organization and the role of the WTO," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2021-3, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    9. David Klenert & Enrique Fernandez-Macias & Jose-Ignacio Anton, 2020. "Do robots really destroy jobs? Evidence from Europe," JRC Working Papers on Labour, Education and Technology 2020-01, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    10. Venturini, Francesco, 2022. "Intelligent technologies and productivity spillovers: Evidence from the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 220-243.
    11. Klump, Rainer & Jurkat, Anne & Schneider, Florian, 2021. "Tracking the rise of robots: A survey of the IFR database and its applications," MPRA Paper 107909, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Abeliansky, Ana & Algur, Eda & Bloom, David E. & Prettner, Klaus, 2020. "The Future of Work: Challenges for Job Creation Due to Global Demographic Change and Automation," IZA Discussion Papers 12962, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Faber, Marius, 2020. "Robots and reshoring: Evidence from Mexican labor markets," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
    14. Ana L. ABELIANSKY & Eda ALGUR & David E. BLOOM & Klaus PRETTNER, 2020. "The future of work: Meeting the global challenges of demographic change and automation," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 159(3), pages 285-306, September.
    15. Altenburg, Tilman & Chen, Xiao & Lütkenhorst, Wilfried & Staritz, Cornelia & Whitfield, Lindsay, 2020. "Exporting out of China or out of Africa? Automation versus relocation in the global clothing industry," Discussion Papers 1/2020, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).
    16. Antonio Martins-Neto & Nanditha Mathew & Pierre Mohnen & Tania Treibich, 2021. "Is There Job Polarization in Developing Economies? A Review and Outlook," CESifo Working Paper Series 9444, CESifo.
    17. Hunt, Wil & Sarkar, Sudipa & Warhurst, Chris, 2022. "Measuring the impact of AI on jobs at the organization level: Lessons from a survey of UK business leaders," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(2).
    18. Martin Labaj & Stracova Erika, 2019. "Drivers of Deindustrialisation: Sub-system Analysis of Internationally Fragmented Production Structures," Department of Economic Policy Working Paper Series 018, Department of Economic Policy, Faculty of National Economy, University of Economics in Bratislava.
    19. 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.
    20. Fan, Haichao & Hu, Yichuan & Tang, Lixin, 2021. "Labor costs and the adoption of robots in China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 186(C), pages 608-631.
    21. Diaz Pavez, Luis R. & Martínez-Zarzoso, Inmaculada, 2021. "The impact of local and foreign automation on labor market outcomes in emerging countries," University of Göttingen Working Papers in Economics 423, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Automation; Reshoring; Employment; Wages; Inequality; Tariffs;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F62 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Macroeconomic Impacts
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • 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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