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Symposium 2015

Job Creation in the Age of Robots

The Challenge

Robots enter the workplace at an increasing rate. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) forecasts the market for industrial robots to grow by 12% per year by 2017 with the number of units sold rising to 298,000 in 2017. Many assembly line jobs have been performed by industrial robots for years now, and machines and robots will continue to substitute labor in many areas due to low costs and high productivity gains. The consequences for employment, unemployment and the income distribution are very unclear. It will be a challenge for both developed and emerging markets. According to recent estimates, by 2025, half of the jobs in the United States might be replaced by robots of some type. China is predicted to be one of the fastest and largest growing markets for industrial robots. The adoption of robotics in labor abundant countries like India is also increasing as the cost of labor rises.

The “robotics revolution” will undoubtedly lead to major shifts in the labor market – with robots not only replacing humans but also leading to a workplace where humans work alongside robots. How can jobs be created in the "age of robots"? How can societies cope with the resulting labor market adjustments? While the adoption of robotics may have an overall positive affect on productivity and living standards, will the extent to which an individual benefits or not largely depend on one’s skill level? How can companies best adapt to an automated workplace? For individuals, which jobs are considered “robot‐safe”? What will happen to the skills and wage gaps within and between different nations? How can governments make shifts to labor market policies, education systems, and tax systems to avoid major upheavals from the pace of technological change? What does the rise of robotics mean for developing countries with a growing working –age population? How should educational institutions react?