Robots at Work

55 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2015

See all articles by Georg Graetz

Georg Graetz

Uppsala University

Guy Michaels

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

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Despite ubiquitous discussions of robots' potential impact, there is almost no systematic empirical evidence on their economic effects. In this paper we analyze for the first time the economic impact of industrial robots, using new data on a panel of industries in 17 countries from 1993-2007.We find that industrial robots increased both labor productivity and value added. Our panel identification is robust to numerous controls, and we find similar results instrumenting increased robot use with a measure of workers' replaceability by robots, which is based on the tasks prevalent in industries before robots were widely employed. We calculate that the increased use of robots raised countries' average growth rates by about 0.37 percentage points. We also find that robots increased both wages and total factor productivity. While robots had no significant effect on total hours worked, there is some evidence that they reduced the hours of both low-skilled and middle-skilled workers.

Keywords: robots, productivity, technological change

JEL Classification: E23, J23, O30

Suggested Citation

Graetz, Georg and Michaels, Guy, Robots at Work. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8938, Available at SSRN:

Georg Graetz (Contact Author)

Uppsala University ( email )

Box 513
Uppsala, 751 20

Guy Michaels

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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