The prospect of robots taking away jobs and reducing wages has been a lingering fear among workers in the manufacturing industry. That fear received corroboration from a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) yesterday. According to the study, the introduction of a single industrial robot resulted in a loss of approximately 6.2 jobs per thousand workers and declined wages by roughly half a percentage point for the same set of people.
In total, robots were responsible for 670,000 job losses between 1990 and 2007, the period analyzed by the study's authors. The study compared changes in employment and wages before and after the introduction of robots in a particular industry across commuting zones in particular regions. According to the study's authors, the regions they researched did not show much difference in terms of employment and wages before 1990. (See also: Robots at Work: 6 Ways to Beat Workplace Automation.)
According to the International Federation of Robotics, the use of industrial robots has accelerated since 2010 due to increased innovation in the field and an ongoing trend toward automation. The United States is among the top five markets worldwide for industrial robot installation. In a report released last year, the federation stated that 27,504 robot units were installed on American factory floors in 2015, accounting for a robot density of 176 robots per 10,000 workers. In addition to automation, bringing manufacturing back home was another impetus for companies to invest in robots, the organization wrote in its report. It estimates that there was a 5 percent increase in the number of robots on factory floors last year. (See also: Robots Are Likely to Replace You If...)
As online publication CNET points out, the NBER study does not quantify the effect of robots in pushing up productivity figures. The Washington Post applied NBER's findings to analyze voting patterns in recent elections. The publication found that places with significantly higher automation percentages, such as Michigan, voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump as opposed to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (See also: What Is the One Job Automation Has Eliminated in the Past 60 Years?)