Working paper

The impact of industrial robots on EU employment and wages: A local labour market approach

In theory, robots can directly displace workers from performing specific tasks (displacement effect). But they can also expand labour demand through t

Publishing date
18 April 2018

The authors of this working paper study the impact of industrial robots on employment and wages in six European Union countries, which make up 85.5 percent of the EU industrial robots market.

In theory, robots can directly displace workers from performing specific tasks (displacement effect). But they can also expand labour demand through the efficiencies they bring to industrial production (productivity effect). The research adopts the local labour market equilibrium approach developed by Acemoglu and Restrepo (2017) to assess which of the two labour market effects dominates.

The authors find that one additional robot per thousand workers reduces the employment rate by 0.16-0.20 percentage points. Thus a significant displacement effect dominates. The displacement effect is particularly evident for workers of middle education and for young cohorts, while men are more affected than women. Estimates, however, do not point to robust and significant results on the impact of robots on wage growth, even after accounting for possible offsetting effects across different populations and sectoral groups.

About the authors

  • Georgios Petropoulos

    Georgios Petropoulos joined Bruegel as a visiting fellow in November 2015, and he has been a resident fellow since April 2016. Since March 2022, he has been a non-resident fellow. Since March 2019, he is a Marie Curie Skłodowska Research Fellow at MIT and Bruegel and post-doctoral fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Georgios’ research focuses on the implications of digital technologies on innovation, competition policy and labour markets. He is currently studying how we should regulate digital platforms, what the relationship between big data and market competition is as well as how the adoption of robots and information technologies affect labour markets and firms’ market returns. He holds a bachelors degree in Physics, master’s degrees in mathematical economics and econometrics and a PhD degree in Economics. He has also studied Astrophysics at a Master's level.

  • David Pichler

    David was a research assistant at Bruegel focusing on macroeconomic related topics, fiscal and monetary policy. Before joining Bruegel, David worked as a trainee at the European Central Bank as well as at the European Investment Bank. He obtained a Master’s degree in Economics from Warwick University after completing his undergraduate programme in Economics at University of Graz, Austria.

    David has been working for the Austrian NGO Childrenplanet which supports projects in education, clean drinking water provision and health care in Cambodia. He is a native German speaker, fluent in English and has good knowledge in Spanish.

  • Francesco Chiacchio

    Francesco, an Italian citizen, works in Bruegel as a Research Assistant in the innovation and competition area, with a focus on trade and productivity, as well. Before joining Bruegel, Francesco was a trainee at the European Central Bank, working on projects related to productivity, Global Value Chains and technology diffusion, export intensity, and credit allocation, as well as on macroeconomic projections. He also interned at the European Commission, Directorate General for Competition, involved in projects related to the Directive on Antitrust Damages Action, and provided teaching assistance at the Tinbergen Institute.

    He holds a Master in Economics and Social Sciences from Bocconi University, where he specialized in quantitative methods and microeconomics.

    Francesco’s research interests include industrial and competition policy, firms and competitiveness, international economics and trade, and resource allocation. His personal interest also lies in possible applications of big data.

    He is fluent in Italian and English, and has basic knowledge of German and French.

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