Pandemics and Automation: Will the Lost Jobs Come Back?
27 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 1, 2021
COVID-19 has exacerbated concerns about the rise of the robots and other automation technologies. This paper analyzes empirically the impact of past major pandemics on robot adoption and inequality. First, we find that pandemic events accelerate robot adoption, especially when the health impact is severe and is associated with a significant economic downturn. Second, while robots may raise productivity, they could also increase inequality by displacing low-skilled workers. We find that following a pandemic, the increase in inequality over the medium term is larger for economies with higher robot density and where new robot adoption has increased more. Our results suggest that the concerns about the rise of the robots amid the COVID-19 pandemic seem justified.
JEL Classification: D63, E24, J23, J31, J63, J64, M51, O33, I12, E25
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