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As workers age, robots take on more jobs -study By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A researcher at Procter & Gamble’s CoRE Fabric and Home Care Robotics Laboratory works on a new robot for handling sheets used in the company’s floor care products, in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Timothy Aeppel/File Photo


By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) – It turns out robots are taking over jobs fastest around the world in places where their human counterparts are aging the most rapidly.

A new study that examined demographic data and industry data from 60 countries found strong links between the aging workforces (defined as workers over 56 compared to those 21-55) and robot usage, with a particular focus on industrial settings.

Research showed that age was the main reason for the differences in countries’ adoption rates of robots. Countries with older workers were more likely to do so.

“Aging is a huge part of the story” in robot adoption, said Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who conducted the study with Pascual Restrepo of Boston University.

The research fits a longstanding trend of countries such as South Korea and Germany – which both have very rapidly aging workforces – also being among the world’s fastest adopters of robots, based on the number of robots per human worker they deploy.

“The U.S. has a huge technological advantage in a bunch of areas – including software and (artificial intelligence),” said Acemoglu. “But in robots, it’s Germany, Japan and recently South Korea, that are further ahead.”

Of the world’s top 15 robotics companies, seven are based in Japan and seven in Germany, Acemoglu said.

Researchers found similar patterns in the U.S., with older workers seeing a greater adoption of robotics since 1990.

Studying 700 U.S. cities, researchers used data from robot “integrators”, which specialize in the installation and maintenance of industrial robots as an indicator of robotic activity. The study found that a 10.5% increase in the age of the local population was associated with a 6.45% percentage point increase in the number of integrators.

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