A new study found a strong correlation between automation and aging workforces around the world — up 35% of the difference in the nations’ commitment to automation is the result of having lots of aging workers age 56 or older.
Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University conducted the research. The pair began writing about the correlation in 2018, when they noticed that worker shortages were more strongly tied with increasing automation than new technologies were.
We kind of knew this
Top countries for robotics include Japan, South Korea, and Germany, all of which have aging populations. In fact, these are not only the most robot-dense countries, but also the fastest aging ones, so they certainly have plenty of aging workers.
Indramat, a German company, now is part of Bosch Rexroth, also a German company. And we have written before about how Japan is looking to robots to sole the problem their rapidly aging population — not just aging workers, but the people needing care as well.
But the economists saw and proved the correlation.
Not only did they see this globally, but they found the same connections in a study involving 700 cities in the U.S. Higher levels of automation tracked with higher numbers of older workers.
What’s the cause?
Why are older workforces encouraging automation? Is it that older, more established workers cost more, so robots are a more appealing alternative to their work than they are to younger, cheaper workers? Or is it that older workers are less physically robust, so they need more help from machinery?
Neither, according to the economists. They explain that an aging workforce leads to labor shortages in areas where automation can be a solution.
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