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Robots Readily Adopted In the Aging Workplace, Study Finds


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older workers in robotics setting, illustration

Operations with a relative scarcity of middle-aged workers appear most suitable for robots, researchers say.

Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares / MIT

Robots are more widely adopted in places with notably older workers, filling gaps created by a shortage of middle-aged workers in manual production tasks, according a study on robot adoption.

"Demographic change — aging — is one of the most important factors leading to the adoption of robotics and other automation technologies," says Daron Acemoglu, an MIT economist and co-author, along with Pascual Restrepo at Boston University, of "Demographics and Automation," published in The Review of Economic Studies.

The researchers' model predicts that the effects of demographic change should be more pronounced in industries that rely more on middle-aged workers and in those that present greater technological opportunities for automation.

Acemoglu and Restrepo found a strong relationship between an aging work force — defined by the ratio of workers 56 and older to those ages 21 to 55 — and robot deployment in 60 countries. "Our findings suggest that quite a bit of investment in robotics is not driven by the fact that this is the next 'amazing frontier,' but because some countries have shortages of labor, especially middle-aged labor that would be necessary for blue-collar work," Acemoglu says.

From MIT News
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