Over the years, technology has revolutionized the world and daily lives. Indeed, it is unimaginable a life without technology. Technology is itself a broad area. In fact, nowadays it has so many subcategories that we even can’t imagine. Robotics is one of these branches which has huge benefits on people. Indeed, technology has created amazing tools to ease our everyday basis and resources putting useful information at our fingertips which wasn’t available 60 years ago. So, what is the impact of robots on labour market?
As everything in this world, while some people are evolving with it, some others are scared of losing their daily bread due to everyday presented robots and AI technologies to the market. In our generation, it is almost impossible to stop daily start-ups regarding of making new apps or developing new robots which ease people’s everyday duties. As a matter of fact, can you imagine a life without your smart phone, computer or even an hour without checking your smart watch or using your smart vacuum cleaner to clean your house after a busy day? Most of the people cannot! Indeed, technology has changed our lives to better, faster, and easier from what it was in the past. For example, if postmen had to paddle their bicycles many miles a day to deliver mails or packages, now drone delivery is getting a well-known concept. Another good example would be if once farmers hired hundreds of people to harvest farms from morning to night for several days, now everything has mechanized and use AI. At first look it may seems cutting hundreds of farmers monthly or daily payment, but it is a great option to avoid injuries and physical fatigue. Today, everything has become easy due to the presence of robots at house and in companies. Indeed today, many industries prefer getting robots than hiring people to certain jobs due to the precise task they do and to maximise profits. Certainly, robotics is and will be the future of many sectors, including the sector of surgeries. Also, emerging of new jobs thanks to tech is inevitable. But what would be the impact of robotics on the labour market? What if robots will take our jobs and we will have to stay at home 24/7?
What robots are and how they are better than human workers?
First of all, we have to understand what robotics is. Robotics is a branch of engineering and sciences which mainly include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. But is it true that people are going to lose their jobs as more robots are being presented to the market every day? To argue on this topic, we have to look back to the industrial revolution era, because this question has been repeatedly asked since early ages. Indeed, industrial revolution had led to rapid changes in people’s life which also led to reform movements. Hill R. states that, citizens from the United States and Great Britain pressured their governments to improve society even more, they wanted the government to help the urban poor. Anxiety over job losses caused by the increased use of machinery has been around for hundreds of years. With each new development, someone has faced the prospect of their livelihood or quality of life being changed irrevocably. So, to answer the previous question whether the jobs are going to be replaced by robots is certainly unknown but, what certain is that it won’t happen in one night.
When are robots going to replace human beings?
Even though we hear people talking about AI and advanced technologies, it is still hard to give full power to robots as they aren’t full optimized yet to that level. Secondly, no job will disappear in a sudden but, will have a gradual transition which has already begun. In point of fact in Hamburg, Germany, waste recycling system is almost autonomous but there are personnel to supervise day to day operations and make machines work flawlessly. If we take a closer look at industries like automotive and agricultural, we can see a huge difference compared to few years back. This difference is caused by new technologies such as installing industrial robots and mobile robots into working places. Indeed, when you walk into an automotive factory you may find less people and more robots. For instance, automotive industries are packed of new technologies and loaded with industrial robots which are often used to weld, inspect finished work, spray paint and etc. We may transfer all the hard working to robots, indeed prof. M. Eifler states that, “tasks, such as the handling and lifting of heavy objects in production processes, can be transferred to robots.” In modern days, robots are not used just in automotive, heavy work industries and agricultural field. In the matter of robotics, it is a huge area where almost all disciplines are sticked together. If truth be told, until the existence of robots, engineers and people who work in other scientific areas won’t lose their jobs as research is part of developing robots – at least until robots will take full power and will be able to predict the future. Instead, if you are thinking of opening a new business we have prepared some ideas for you. What are the new business ideas?
What robots are?
As stated earlier, robotics is large field, and it is a rapidly changing field. Altogether, this field is mainly divided into two categories – industrial and mobile robots. “Industrial robots are multi-purpose manipulators that feature at least three programmable axes and automatically perform industrial tasks. The best robots for these industrial tasks are usually end effectors, which are tools or grippers”. On the other hand, mobile robots have ability to move around and adapt in different environments compared to industrial robots which are stationary and also, they benefits from rechargeable batteries.
Robots and Medicine
As for their great qualities, these new automated machines are even used in operation rooms to perform surgeries. Most common surgeries are removing cysts or the prostate from patients. As the book “introduction to robotics”, mentions just in year 2014, more than 500,000 surgeries were performed thanks to a system called “Da Vinci Surgical System”. Despite of all these high technological devises, robotics in the healthcare sector remains a relatively nascent discipline. However, medical robots can be seen in a near future for their millimetre accuracy through one or more small incisions for various surgical procedures. However, as a matter of fact “patient benefits from robot-assisted surgery are largely those associated with the laparoscopic approach — smaller incisions, reduced blood loss, and faster recovery”. Together with surgeries, robots are used for other medical purposes such as taking care of older people, people with disabilities and for some rehabilitation processes.
Robots and Agriculture
As mentioned earlier in this essay, robots contribute an important role in agricultural field. Nowadays, robots are vital in broad acre harvesting and sowing and weeding. The book Introduction to robotics defines it as, “In forestry, for example, wood harvesters embody intelligent technologies that enable further automation of processes, such as GPS, digital maps of their environment, the implementation of walking devices, automatic crane control, and even remote-control”. To state more, nowadays the way of harvesting in agriculture is different than traditional harvesting. In fact, in the past machines like tractors and diggers were involved to harvest and to collect crops but today, much is happening in an agricultural land. At this moment of time, thousands of robots, sensors, and artificial intelligence are used to collect data from lands to decide which plants to sow and how long does it takes to grow an entire plantation with how many ounces of nutrients and water. As a matter of fact, some big farmers have also enough technology to say plant’s size, crops height and density, whether they need water or not and when they must be cropped, which once upon had to be done by seeing and touching each plant. Nowadays, most of the vegetation fields works are done by robots especially using drones like some parcel delivers in developed countries. In reality, these mobile robots can help farmers to optimize their crops by seeding, fertilizing, watering, and reacting more quickly when threats such as pests and funguses appear, in contrast to when farm workers take time to identify and spray chemicals. Even though, these chemicals are harmful against human’s skin if not well protected.
Also, robots can reduce the number of injuries associated with farming. A study was carried out regarding to agricultural incidents during the period of 1995 and 1999, and according to collected data it shows that “the overall incidence rate was 1.25/1000 workers/year. About 9.2% of the incidents were fatal, and most of the fatal incidents were due to tractors and snakebites (42.9% each). About 77.6% of all incidents were due to farm machinery, 11.8% were due to hand tools, and the remaining 10.6% were due to other sources like snakes, wells, etc.” In another research conducted from home to home in Nepal has discovered that in the last twelve months work-related injuries among farmers were 69%. “Common injuries among the farmers were cuts (79.7%), puncture wound (11.3%) and laceration (7.5%). Hand tools were responsible for most of the injuries followed by slipping at work, sharp instruments, animals and fall from height. Upper limb injury comprised of 67% of all injuries and the most involved part was fingers (43%).” Even more, speed and precision are important roles when it comes to business so, robots in industrial and agricultural environments are vital.
Heavy use of Robots
For the complicity of robotics, each industry is developed differently than others. Indeed, as we discussed earlier in this essay, while robots in the medical field is not advance enough to operate on behalf of every surgeon autonomously, other sectors like agriculture and parcel delivery industries are developed enough to protect plants and bring parcels to the correct address. Another well-developed industry is aerospace industry. Without a doubt, NASA would not be here without all the technology and robots it has made. In point of fact, everyday thanks to hundreds of mobile robots’ data are collected from all over the space and, even well-known ISS (international Space Station) relies heavily on the use of extravehicular robotic systems to assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station.
Rising number of Robots
Reality is that use of industrial and mobile robots are increasing at breath-taking speed around the world. In fact, according to the 2021 World Robot Report, “126 robots per 10,000 employees is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries – nearly double the number five years”. As the International Federation of Robotics states, the average robots density per regions are distributed as: Asia/Australia is 134 units, in Europe 123 units and in the Americas 111 units while, the most automated countries in the world are South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Sweden. However, the same federation mentioned according to high number of installations of robots, the development of robot density in China is much higher than the other mentioned automated countries.
Asia Home to Robots
Even though, it seemed Europe and North America were tech dominant, Asia makes the home for robotics. Indeed since 2010, Republic of Korea holds the title for the highest robot density in the world which also means 932 units per 10,000 workers and its density of robots are rising by 10% on average each year since 2015. While Singapore and Japan called for the second and third places, in Europe just two countries are called for the high use of robots in industries, and they are non-other than Germany and Sweden. According to IFR, even though the United States density has increased from 176 units in 2015 to 255 units in 2020, still the country ranks seventh in the world.
Will Africa be the last country to be replace by robots?
From the other hand, Africa seems to be little more behind than other countries. Robotic density in many African countries are still unknown, however robotic density in South Africa ranks 33 in the world. In fact, it has just 28 industrial robots installed per 10.000 employees. Instead, in Africa percentage of activities that could be automated by robots with current technology occur by 51.9% in Kenya, 50.5% in Morocco, 48.7% in Egypt, 45.7% in Nigeria and at the end 41% in South Africa.
Robots and Labour Market
It’s not surprising to see such numbers as robotics is the future from agricultural fields to rovers sent by Nasa on mars and other planets. Indeed, even today most of the activities are done by robots in many industries, what might be the impact of robotics in labour market in high robotic density countries? China for example, has been the world’s largest market for industrial robots since 2013 in fact there is no doubt that Shenzhen in China is the new Silicon Valley in Asia.
According to a study made in collecting industrial robot data from the International Federation of Robotics and employment data from the China Statistical Yearbook from 2010 to 2019, it has discovered a significant positive correlation between robots’ exposure and labour demand for IT, health and social services, science research and technical services, and management of water conservancy and environmental industries. Meanwhile, the same report mentioned that with the introduction of robots into industries has reduced employment in traditional industries such as agriculture and mining. Furthermore, it states that a plan called “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” released in 2017 urges China to seize the global command of artificial intelligence by the year 2030 and incubate 10 trillion Yuan in industrial output. China has installed total of 140.000 in 2109 but it is 9% units less than in 2018 but still highest than the total robots installed in Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, China’s use of industrial robots began in the early 1970s but developed slowly due to abundant labours and just in mid 1980s began to reform it again indeed, robots were listed as China’s key national scientific research program in the seventh five-year plan states research article “Effect of Industrial Robots on Employment in China: An Industry Level Analysis”. Same research article pointed out that China’s R&D expenditure has increased at an average annual rate of about 20%. R&D expenditure has expanded from 89.6 to 2443 billion Yuan in 2000 and 2020, respectively, accounting for 0.89% to 2.40% of GDP”. Research shows that in China, the use of robots promoted high skilled employment and 10% increase in robot density leads to a 1.1% rise in high-tech jobs. Although, data from 2001 to 2020 suggest that there were 50% of farmers in 2001 while it has decreased to 37% in 2010 and 24% in 2020. Even though, there are more than six million farmers very few are engaged in the field of agricultural. Most of them preferred to work in another industry or start a small business. It also caused by the low salaries and the reputation some jobs gives. In fact, youngsters prefer work in a white-collar industry than a blue-collar industry. From the other hand China is heavily investing on farming robots and it is gradually expanding every day as they are more precise than humans and can prevent even small size of incidents. When it comes to mining, in 2022 China is still the world’s largest coal, steel, aluminium, magnesium, and other metallic minerals producer. As mining requires experience and it is dangerous to send workers underground to mine under certain circumstances such as for serious environmental pollution and sudden emitted gasses, robots have become essential for the mining industry to achieve country’s goal. Therefore, it is believed to be developed until it will become full autonomous and intelligent enough so no human will needed to mine in the future. However, according to this research it is still uncertain impact of future salaries in the labour market, but it pointed out that the robotics technology will be the future and it will contribute massively into China’s economic growth.
Furthermore, it has suggested that the country’s current labour workforce is made mostly of low-skilled workers and China has to redesign and strengthen education system and even more that the government must provide support by creating skill learning centres and by ensuring higher employment quality by alleviating the employment impact of new technology. Currently, robotics is a worldwide issue especially between young people. As a matter of fact, governments of other countries as well as China have to support their citizens by creating and strengthening education system and learning centres for those who won’t attend universities after high schools’. The integration of unskilled labours will be a huge problem in the future, because in addition to the number of university graduates, the number of people without completed vocational training or school education will increase and to not mention about the number of unskilled refugees and immigrants who will immigrate to western developed countries. As the demand for unskilled job assumed to decline massively, the integration of these people into digital labour market is practically impossible so, governments have to establish new laws and pay extreme care presenting robots to industries. Another spreading news is that governments, might pay citizens as robots are taking their jobs (E. Musk, 2016).
Every day, Companies and employees are hostile towards Artificial Intelligence, industrial and mobile robots, and other technologies to improve their business and gain maximum profit. Although, there won’t be any Artificial Intelligence nor intelligence robots without certain industries and personnel. Even though robots will take somebody’s job in the future, therefore must be machine designers, engineers, and scientific researchers to develop such technologies and robots which means new jobs are created. Even though low skilled labour market is destined to be replaced by robots, high skilled jobs are projected to have a growth. Another fact that almost nobody speaks about is development of new technologies and robots, governments and companies have to consider the investments, costs, and time it takes to develop a robot and whether they are harmful to the environment or not. Even though it seems easier to develop a new robot, sometimes it may takes ages from start to the end process. Some of the process includes facilitating interaction between robot-human, minimizing privacy and security risks, building multi-functional robots, developing reliable artificial intelligence, mapping environments, and creating better power sources which won’t harm the environment. In case of creating new power sources is not an easy task, for example lithium batteries are made out of harmful chemicals and, if buried on the ground it can cause serious damages to the nature. Indeed nowadays, with the impact of climate changing there are new emerging companies who take care of just recycling batteries and invest in research industry to discover better methods in recycling batteries. These types of jobs require high skilled workers and scientists. As mentioned earlier in this essay, new jobs are expected to take over and some of them are already there such as biomedical engineering, robotic engineering, data science, crowd working and cyber security. However, in particular science and IT professions are at safe as they are the core level of technology. By far, like IT field also lawyers, doctors and nurses are far from being replaced but in these sectors too, with the introduction of high-tech can lead to staff reduction. But in the case of physicians, even they won’t be able to work in hospitals, they can work in research area so they can give inputs to robots on how to medicate and operate on patients. Indeed to develop something new, the help of many professional sectors are needed. There are not just negative things when it comes to technology and robotics, thanks to robotics and artificial intelligence people can work from wherever they want and control their robots even from home and program them while travelling. Even though not every job can be handled from home, workers can also work 50% at office and other 50% from home. This kind of flexibility is very helpful when it comes to families where mother and fathers can spend more time with their children and work at the same time so, we may want to thank robots one day. But have you ever thought what might be the disadvantages of working soon after high school?
In conclusion, it can be said that there might be radical changes to everybody’s lives in the future due to the technologies already presented and for those not yet presented. Even though new technologies will be presented to the market, people will adapt to them sooner than we might think as it happened in the past during the industrial revolution era. Regardless of new technologies, there will be new job opportunities and people must be able to embrace them. In fact, governments and people must have to invest their time and money on learning new things and trying new technologies as the low skilled labour market is going to be replaced sooner by new technologies, especially from mobile and industrial robotics. However, many jobs regarding to science and IT as well as physicians, nurses and lawyers are less like to decline, but they might be hit from new technologies as well. Already, new technologies are replacing jobs in automotive industry, farming industry and parcel delivery industry to mention some. Even though predictions regarding to the heavy impact of low skilled labour market are clear enough, countries like America, Germany, Singapore, Republic of Korea, and China are heavily investing in robotics by installing hundreds of thousands of robots in industries for the precise work they do and for other benefits. The use of robots will affect the whole world and the economy although, it will be the future. To bear with this issue, everybody must follow what they like and grow with technology and be curious about other global challenges.
Bhattarai, D., Singh, S.B., Baral, D. et al. Work-related injuries among farmers: a cross-sectional study from rural Nepal. J Occup Med Toxicol 11, 48 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12995-016-0137-2
Chui, M., Manyika, J., & Miremadi, M. (2017, April 12). The Countries Most (and Least) Likely to be Affected by Automation. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2017/04/the-countries-most-and-least-likely-to-be-affected-by-automation
Eifler, M. (n.d.). Introduction to Robotics. IU Internationale Hochschule GmbH IU International University of Applied. (pp. 77)
Fleming S. (3 September 2020). A short history of jobs and automation. In https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/short-history-jobs-automation/.World Economic Forum.
Gyles C. (2019, August). Robots in medicine. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 19 October 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6625162/
Hill R. (n.d.). Responses to Industrialization. Https://Www.Khanacademy.Org/. Retrieved 15 October 2022, from https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/whp-origins/era-6-the-long-nineteenth-century-1750-ce-to-1914-ce/64-transformation-of-labor-betaa/a/read-responses-to-industrialization-beta#:~:text=Some%20people%20became%20concerned%3A%20These,to%20reform%20(improve)%20society.
Nancy J. C., NASA – Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Brian Peacock, National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Houston, Texas. (n.d.). INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION ROBOTIC SYSTEMS OPERATIONS – A HUMAN FACTORS PERSPECTIVE. Nasa.Gov. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pdf/486042main_ISSRoboticsHumanFactorsPerspective.pdf
Robot Density nearly Doubled globally. (2021, December 14). International Federation of Robotics. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/robot-density-nearly-doubled-globally
Tiwari P. S., Gite L. P., Dubey A. K., Kot L. S. (n.d.). Agricultural Injuries in Central India: Nature, Magnitude, and Economic Impact. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Retrieved 15 October 2022, from https://elibrary.asabe.org/abstract.asp?aid=7221
Wisskirchen G., Biacabe B. T., Bormann U., Muntz A., Niehaus G., Jiménez G. S., & Brauchitsch B. V. (2017, April). Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Their Impact on the Workplace. IBA Global Employment Institute. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamed_Mourad_Lafifi/post/What_are_the_social_and_economic_effects_of_computers_in_automation_and_robotics/attachment/5fd34ec9d6d02900019d1a1d/AS%3A967510073565185%401607683785826/download/Artificial+Intelligence+and+Robotics+and+Their+Impact+on+the+Workplace.pdf
Zhao, Y., Said, R., Ismail, N. W., & Hamzah, H. Z. (2022). Effect of Industrial Robots on Employment in China: An Industry Level Analysis. Computational intelligence and neuroscience, 2022, 2267237. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/2267237