Recent advances in the field of digitization and robotics, such as driverless cars, largely autonomous smart factories, service robots or 3D printing, give rise to public fears that technology may substitute for labor on a grand scale. Against this background, the report reviews the existing literature on the employment effects of technological change to derive policy implications and to identify open research questions. We highlight that past technological change has mostly affected the structure of employment, but had only little or even positive effects on the level of employment. In particular, the recent computerization was associated with a declining share of routine-task-intensive middle-skill jobs, while, on net, it has led to an increase of labor demand. The scientific evidence further suggests that technological change in the foreseeable future will continue to mostly affect the structure of labor demand without necessarily changing total employment much. As we argue, the main challenge for the future of work lies in coping with rising inequality, as technological change creates both winners and losers. Policy makers should focus on the qualifications of the workers to ensure that workers’ skills match future skill requirements. However, we highlight that there remain many open research questions regarding the need for policy responses, the effectiveness of alternative measures, as well as which skills will be required in the near future.
Arntz, Melanie, Terry Gregory and Ulrich Zierahn (2016), ELS issues in robotics and steps to consider them. Part 1: Robotics and Employment, Deliverable D3.4.1 – part 1 for SPARC via RockEU, funded by EU FP7 Grant Agreement Number 611247, Mannheim. Download