A new report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows the increased use of robots threatens millions of jobs in developing countries. It undermines the advantage of low wages and facilitates the “reshoring” of industries back to industrialised countries.
The solution? Build your own robots, the report says.
“The increased use of robots in developed countries risks eroding the traditional labor-cost advantage of developing countries,” the policy brief says.
Research in the report from the World Bank shows the share of occupations that could experience significant automation is actually higher in developing countries than in more advanced ones, where many of these jobs have already disappeared, and this concerns about two thirds of all jobs.
The report says that industrial robots have primarily been deployed in the automotive, electrical and electronics industries.
“This means that in developing countries – such as Mexico and many countries in Asia – those engaged in export activities in these two sectors are the most exposed to reshoring,” it says.
The report advises developing countries to tax robots and to prevent the rising inequality – caused by loss of low-skilled jobs – through social transfers. Much of the debate on the economic impacts of robots remains speculative, it says.
“Disruptive technologies always bring a mix of benefits and risks,” the report says, noting that by embracing the digital revolution, developing countries could use robots to open up new opportunities.
By combining three-dimensional printing and the use of robots, small businesses in developing countries could access new possibilities to manufacture on a much larger scale.
In a nother little fact fact contained in the report, each year since 2013 China has bought more industrial robots than any other country. By the end of 2016, it is likely to overtake Japan as the world’s biggest operator of industrial robots.