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Robots ‘will create 2m jobs in eight years’

28 February, 2013

Industrial robots will create more than two million jobs over the next eight years, according to a study conducted for the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The study, by the London consultancy Metra Martech, also concludes that robots already in use by 2011 directly created a total of 4–6m jobs – equivalent to an average of three to five jobs for every robot in service. If jobs created indirectly are added, the total number is 8–10m.

“Our study proves that robots create jobs,” says the IFR’s general secretary, Gudrun Litzenberger. “It is a matter of fact that productivity and competiveness are indispensable for a manufacturing enterprise to be successful on the global market. Robotics and automation are the solution. Certain jobs may be reduced by robotics and automation, but the study highlights that consequently many more jobs are created!”

The IFR’s own statistics reveal that despite the weak economic climate last year, more than 160,000 robots were sold worldwide – close to an all-time record. Sales in Europe were lower than in 2011, while those in Asia stagnated. But in the Americas, robot sales surged ahead. Between 2002 and 2012, global robot sales grew by an annual average of about 9%.

The Metra Martech study – an update of one first published in 2011 – says that robots have the effect of rebalancing world manufacturing economics, enabling higher labour-cost countries to compete globally. This results in increased sales of manufactured products, leading to more manufacturing jobs and creating higher-paying support jobs. According to the study, where automation displaces people in manufacturing, it almost always increases output, creates new markets, and generates the need for downstream jobs to get the product to the consumer.

The study focuses on six countries and finds that manufacturing employment has risen in all of them, except Japan, which was and early adopter and, until recently, had the most robots per manufacturing employee. In the 11 years covered by the study, the level of robotics use has almost doubled in the five other countries.

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