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International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated safe distancing measures have accelerated the digital revolution. A similar dynamic is taking place in Singapore, a country at the forefront of digital usage, including through unprecedented growth of e-commerce. An empirical analysis of sector-level labor productivity growth in advanced economies, including Singapore, suggests that digitalization and innovation, captured through e-commerce, robotization, and research and development, are associated with higher labor productivity growth. Singapore has scope for a sizeable expansion of e-commerce (despite recent rapid growth) and of research and development. This would help the country further reap the benefits of the digital economy, notably through higher productivity growth, and accelerate economic transformation.

Lahcen Bounader, Nikolay Gueorguiev, Ryota Nakatani, and Luis-Felipe Zanna

Many studies predict massive job losses and real wage decline as a result of the ongoing widespread automation of production, a trend that may be further aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. Yet automation is also expected to raise productivity and output. How can we share the gains from automation more widely, for the benefit of all? And what are the attendant equity-efficiency trade-offs? We analyze this issue by considering the effects of fiscal policies that seek to redistribute the gains from automation and address income inequality. We use a dynamic general equilibrium model with monopolistic competition, including a novel specification linking corporate power to automation. While fiscal policy cannot eliminate the classic equity-efficiency trade-offs, it can help improve them, reducing inequality at small or no loss of output. This is particularly so when policy takes advantage of novel, less distortive transmission channels of fiscal policy created by the empirically observed link between corporate market power and automation.

Lahcen Bounader, Nikolay Gueorguiev, Ryota Nakatani, and Luis-Felipe Zanna
Mr. Andrew Berg, Lahcen Bounader, Nikolay Gueorguiev, Hiroaki Miyamoto, Mr. Kenji Moriyama, Ryota Nakatani, and Luis-Felipe Zanna
Many studies predict massive job losses and real wage decline as a result of the ongoing widespread automation of production, a trend that may be further aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. Yet automation is also expected to raise productivity and output. How can we share the gains from automation more widely, for the benefit of all? And what are the attendant equity-efficiency trade-offs? We analyze this issue by considering the effects of fiscal policies that seek to redistribute the gains from automation and address income inequality. We use a dynamic general equilibrium model with monopolistic competition, including a novel specification linking corporate power to automation. While fiscal policy cannot eliminate the classic equity-efficiency trade-offs, it can help improve them, reducing inequality at small or no loss of output. This is particularly so when policy takes advantage of novel, less distortive transmission channels of fiscal policy created by the empirically observed link between corporate market power and automation.
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.