Robots and Artificial Intelligence: the next Frontier for Employment and European Economic Policy

Brüegel, 18th April 2018

The evolution of automated robots and artificial intelligence have grown faster in the last 4 decades with evident application over a vast variety of sectors. In between 1990 and 2007, the price of robots had felt more than 50%, while quality increased by 3 times. Recent studies display that 54% and 47% of EU and US job opportunities (respectively) are at risk because of technological unemployment and rising automation in production (Bowles, 2014; Frey & Osborne, 2013, 2017).


Unfortunately, current studies are unable to display the net effect of robotization on the total economy and, more specifically, whether productivity gains rather than displacement effect would prevail or vice versa.

On 18th April, we had the honour to assist on the results from the working Paper on “The impact of Industrial Robots on EU employment and Wages: a Local Labour Market Approach.” (Chiacchio, Petropoulos, Pichier). The paper aimed to explore the impact on wages and employment produced by the exposure to robots in the industrial sector through an empirical study across the six countries concentrating 85.5% of EU industrial robots (France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden) for the period 1995-2007. Even thought, evidence shows that the reduction in job opportunities is largely less significant than foreseen in the US literature, it mainly affects young people (15-24 years old), low and high-educated people, men. Industrial robots’ effects on total economy is negative and particularly strong in the industrial sector, while no evident impact is on wages.

The second part of the discussion have involved a number of influent actors on the role of policy to improve regulation of artificial intelligence and robots at the EU and international level. Among the others, I would like to highlight the formal proposition of Mr. Mariniello, working as Digital Adviser at the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC), to the European Commission through “Towards a EU Strategy for Human Centric Machines.” He explored the role and possibilities of the EU to create to support Artificial Intelligence while identifying and addressing, simultaneously, social risks and the need for global quality standards.

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