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Robots Worldwide: The Impact of Automation on Employment and Trade


  • Carbonero, Francesco
  • Ernst, Ekkehard
  • Weber, Enzo


The impact of robots on employment and trade is a highly discussed topic in the academic and public debates. Particularly, there are concerns that automation may threat jobs in emerging countries given the erosion of the labour cost advantage. We provide evidence on the effects of robots on worldwide employment, including emerging economies. To instrument the use of robots, we introduce an index of technical progress, defined as the ability of robots to carry out different tasks. Robots turn out to have a significantly negative impact on worldwide employment. While it is small in developed countries, for emerging economies it amounts to -11 per cent between 2005 and 2014. However, here, there appear positive spillovers especially from robotisation in manufacturing on employment outside manufacturing. Furthermore, we assess cross-country effects, finding that robots in developed countries decrease off-shoring just as employment in emerging economies.

Suggested Citation

  • Carbonero, Francesco & Ernst, Ekkehard & Weber, Enzo, 2020. "Robots Worldwide: The Impact of Automation on Employment and Trade," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224602, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc20:224602

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Francesco Chiacchio & Georgios Petropoulos & David Pichler, 2018. "The impact of industrial robots on EU employment and wages- A local labour market approach," Working Papers 25186, Bruegel.
    2. Faber, Marius, 2018. "Robots and reshoring: Evidence from Mexican local labor markets," Working papers 2018/27, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    3. Dachs, Bernhard & Kinkel, Steffen & Jäger, Angela, 2019. "Bringing it all back home? Backshoring of manufacturing activities and the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 54(6), pages 1-1.
    4. Brent Neiman, 2014. "The Global Decline of the Labor Share," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 61-103.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2017. "Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series dp-297, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2020. "Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 128(6), pages 2188-2244.
    7. repec:oup:qjecon:v:129:y:2013:i:1:p:61-103 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Carbonero, Francesco. & Ernst, Ekkehard & Weber, Enzo., 2018. "Robots worldwide the impact of automation on employment and trade," ILO Working Papers 995008793402676, International Labour Organization.
    9. Carbonero, Francesco & Offermanns, Christian J. & Weber, Enzo, 2017. "The fall of the labour income share: the role of technological change and imperfect labour markets," IAB Discussion Paper 201728, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    10. Artuc,Erhan & Christiaensen,Luc & Winkler,Hernan Jorge, 2019. "Does Automation in Rich Countries Hurt Developing Ones? : Evidence from the U.S. and Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8741, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Naudé, Wim, 2019. "The Race against the Robots and the Fallacy of the Giant Cheesecake: Immediate and Imagined Impacts of Artificial Intelligence," IZA Discussion Papers 12218, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Stemmler, Henry, 2019. "Does automation lead to de-industrialization in emerging economies? Evidence from Brazil," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 382, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    3. Carbonero, Francesco. & Ernst, Ekkehard & Weber, Enzo., 2018. "Robots worldwide the impact of automation on employment and trade," ILO Working Papers 995008793402676, International Labour Organization.
    4. Martin Labaj & Materj Vitalos, 2019. "Automation and labor demand in European countries: A task-based approach to wage bill decomposition," Department of Economic Policy Working Paper Series 021, Department of Economic Policy, Faculty of National Economy, University of Economics in Bratislava.
    5. Fuchs Martina, 2020. "Does the Digitalization of Manufacturing Boost a ‘Smart’ Era of Capital Accumulation?," Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, De Gruyter, vol. 64(2), pages 47-57, June.
    6. Belloc, Filippo & Burdin, Gabriel & Landini, Fabio, 2020. "Robots and Worker Voice: An Empirical Exploration," IZA Discussion Papers 13799, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Davide Dottori, 2020. "Robots and employment: evidence from Italy," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 572, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    8. Chen, Shih-Chih & Jiang, Wei & Ma, Yin, 2020. "Decent work in a transition economy: An empirical study of employees in China," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 153(C).
    9. Faber, Marius, 2020. "Robots and reshoring: Evidence from Mexican labor markets," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
    10. Jung, Jin Hwa & Lim, Dong-Geon, 2020. "Industrial robots, employment growth, and labor cost: A simultaneous equation analysis," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 159(C).

    More about this item


    robot; technology; employment; off-shoring; re-shoring;

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions

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