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Tahsin Saadi Sedik
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.
Tahsin Saadi Sedik, Jiae Yoo, and Davide Furceri

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.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Abstract

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is still unfolding around the globe. In Asia, as elsewhere, the virus has ebbed in some countries but surged in others. The global economy is beginning to recover after a sharp contraction in the second quarter of 2020, as nationwide lockdowns are lifted and replaced with more targeted containment measures.

Cristian Alonso, Mr. Andrew Berg, Siddharth Kothari, Mr. Chris Papageorgiou, and Sidra Rehman
This paper considers the implications for developing countries of a new wave of technological change that substitutes pervasively for labor. It makes simple and plausible assumptions: the AI revolution can be modeled as an increase in productivity of a distinct type of capital that substitutes closely with labor; and the only fundamental difference between the advanced and developing country is the level of TFP. This set-up is minimalist, but the resulting conclusions are powerful: improvements in the productivity of “robots” drive divergence, as advanced countries differentially benefit from their initially higher robot intensity, driven by their endogenously higher wages and stock of complementary traditional capital. In addition, capital—if internationally mobile—is pulled “uphill”, resulting in a transitional GDP decline in the developing country. In an extended model where robots substitute only for unskilled labor, the terms of trade, and hence GDP, may decline permanently for the country relatively well-endowed in unskilled labor.
Mr. Carlos Mulas-Granados, Richard Varghese, Vizhdan Boranova, Alice deChalendar, and Judith Wallenstein
We exploit a survey data set that contains information on how 11,000 workers across advanced and emerging market economies perceive the main forces shaping the future of work. In general, workers feel more positive than negative about automation, especially in emerging markets. We find that negative perceptions about automation are prevalent among workers who are older, poorer, more exposed to job volatility, and from countries with higher levels of robot penetration. Perceptions over automation are positively viewed by workers with higher levels of job satisfaction, higher educational attainment, and from countries with stronger labor protection. Workers with positive perceptions of automation also tend to respond that re-education and retraining will be needed to adapt to rapidly evolving skill demands. These workers expect governments to have a role in shaping the future of work through protection of labor and new forms of social benefits. The demand for protection and benefits is more significant among women and workers that have suffered job volatility.