Robots are rapidly on their way to taking 20 million manufacturing jobs, wiping out a chunk of the global workforce

DrazenRobots are coming for manufacturing jobs around the world.
  • Robots will displace 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide, according to a new report from Oxford Economics.
  • The manufacturing industry is most vulnerable to automation, according to Oxford Economics. China will have 14 million industrial robots working in manufacturing by 2030.
  • The Trump administration has been slow to recognise automation’s impact on the manufacturing industry.
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By 2030, robots will displace 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide.

The 20 million number – which represents 8.5% of the global manufacturing workforce – comes out of a new report from economic forecast company Oxford Economics (OE). It also found that on average, every newly installed robot displaces 1.6 manufacturing workers.

While other industries are beginning to experiment with automation, manufacturing jobs are most vulnerable in the immediate future. China leads the charge in automating jobs: By 2030, the country will have 14 million industrial robots in use. The rest of the world, meanwhile, will have just 6 million robots in use.

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Robots are growing in numbers because they are cheaper than paying people. Technological advancements have pushed down the average unit price of robots by 11% between 2011 to 2016. The US has already lost 260,000 due to automation since the turn of the century, according to the report.

The report analysed data from the International Federation of Robots, and focused on countries that account for more than 90% of industrial robot installations: EU nations, US, Japan, South Korea, China, and more. The IFR uses survey data from robot suppliers in 50 countries tracked from 1994 to 2014.

The bigger robotic picture

Researchers have been telling us about how automation is going to gobble up jobs for years:

  • The World Economic Forum predicted that half of companies would reduce their full-time workforce by 2022.
  • PWC estimated roughly 7 million jobs in the UK would be displaced by 2037.
  • McKinsey projected 800 million people worldwide would be out of a job by 2030.

OE’s findings differ in that they target how the manufacturing sector specifically would suffer. Robots have 5 million American manufacturing jobs since 2000, accounting for a decline of nearly 30% of these jobs, Business Insider’s Pedro Nicolaci da Costa reported.

The report also has implications for manufacturing policy, as President Trump promised to bring back these jobs during his campaign. Manufacturing activity fell in the US to a two-year low in June, in part due to the ongoing trade war with China.

Still, the Trump administration has been slow to acknowledge AI’s impact on the American workforce. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin once said he’s “not worried at all” about robots’ impact on employment.

“The repercussions of robotization are interconnected and complex, but the growth in robotics is inevitable,” the OE report says. “These challenges must be embraced and addressed.”

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