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Labour and technology at the time of Covid-19. Can artificial intelligence mitigate the need for proximity?

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  • Carbonero, Francesco
  • Scicchitano, Sergio

Abstract

Social distancing has become worldwide the key public policy to be implemented during the COVID-19 epidemic and reducing the degree of proximity among workers turned out to be an important dimension. An emerging literature looks at the role of automation in supporting the work of humans but the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to influence the need for physical proximity on the workplace has been left largely unexplored. By using a unique and innovative dataset that combines data on advancements of AI at the occupational level with information on the required proximity in the job-place and administrative employer-employee data on job flows, our results show that AI and proximity stand in an inverse U-shape relationship at the sectoral level, with high advancements in AI that are negatively associated with proximity. We detect this pattern among sectors that were closed due to the lockdown measures as well as among sectors that remained open. We argue that, apart from the expected gains in productivity and competitiveness, preserving jobs and economic activities in a situation of high contagion may be the additional benefits of a policy favouring digitization.

Suggested Citation

  • Carbonero, Francesco & Scicchitano, Sergio, 2021. "Labour and technology at the time of Covid-19. Can artificial intelligence mitigate the need for proximity?," GLO Discussion Paper Series 765, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:765
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    Keywords

    artificial intelligence; automation; covid19; proximity;
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