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.
Mariya Brussevich, Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Christine Kamunge, Pooja Karnane, Salma Khalid, and Ms. Kalpana Kochhar
New technologies?digitalization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning?are changing the way work gets done at an unprecedented rate. Helping people adapt to a fast-changing world of work and ameliorating its deleterious impacts will be the defining challenge of our time. What are the gender implications of this changing nature of work? How vulnerable are women’s jobs to risk of displacement by technology? What policies are needed to ensure that technological change supports a closing, and not a widening, of gender gaps? This SDN finds that women, on average, perform more routine tasks than men across all sectors and occupations?tasks that are most prone to automation. Given the current state of technology, we estimate that 26 million female jobs in 30 countries (28 OECD member countries, Cyprus, and Singapore) are at a high risk of being displaced by technology (i.e., facing higher than 70 percent likelihood of being automated) within the next two decades. Female workers face a higher risk of automation compared to male workers (11 percent of the female workforce, relative to 9 percent of the male workforce), albeit with significant heterogeneity across sectors and countries. Less well-educated and older female workers (aged 40 and above), as well as those in low-skill clerical, service, and sales positions are disproportionately exposed to automation. Extrapolating our results, we find that around 180 million female jobs are at high risk of being displaced globally. Policies are needed to endow women with required skills; close gender gaps in leadership positions; bridge digital gender divide (as ongoing digital transformation could confer greater flexibility in work, benefiting women); ease transitions for older and low-skilled female workers.
China's growth record since the start of its economic reforms in 1978 has been extraordinary. Yet, this impressive performance has been associated with an increasing regional income disparity. We use a recently developed nonparametric approach to analyze the variation in labor productivity growth across China's provinces. This approach imposes less structure on the data than the standard growth accounting framework and allows for a breakdown of labor productivity into capital deepening, efficiency gains, and technological progress. Like other studies before us, we do not find strong evidence of convergence in labor productivity across China's provinces during 1978-98. However, our results show that provinces converged in efficiency levels, while they diverged in capital deepening and technological progress.