Thursday, April 11, 2013

Robot Lobbyists Say Robots Good, Create Jobs--UPDATE

This afternoon FT Alphaville linked to a study (Robots, China and demographics) that says jobs weren't lost to automation 1990-2007, they went to China.

Izabella was far too kind in her discussion of the paper and didn't comment on a few sites who linked to it uncritically.

Even if you stipulate that the author's conclusions are correct, the study ended in 2007!
Since the Great Recession, I'd contend that robotics are different in many ways and their applications are so different from six years ago that the paper has little value beyond the historical.
Ya gotta watch those endpoints.

Our headline was used back in February when we first saw this International Federation of Robotics-commissioned Metra Martech study. Here's more.
From Everything Robotic, April 9, 2013:
Do Industrial Robots Really Have A Positive Impact On Employment?
Do industrial robots really have a positive impact on employment? Of course they do and there are over 50 years of data proving that to be the case.

There are at least 350,000 people directly employed by and in the industrial robotics industry. However, industrial robots are not made in the U.S.; they are made in Japan, Korea and Europe, consequently more than half of those 350,000 jobs are offshore. 

There are ancillary providers of components, software and other services for robots and installations but these jobs are hard to quantify. In general manufacturing there are known multipliers but in robotics, there is no known formula to extrapolate just how many jobs in these ancillary businesses are attributable to robotics.

The deployment of robots into a factory situation involves even more complex computations and assumptions -- which is why the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) commissioned the UK-based research firm Metra Martech in 2009 to figure out how to compute the effect on jobs of the deployment of industrial robots.

The IFR annually collects, reports on shipments and sales, computes robots at work (versus idle or abandoned), and makes five-year sales and deployment projections of industrial and service robots worldwide. They summarize their data into two comprehensive books: World Robotics Industrial Robots 2012 and World Robotics Service Robots 2012 reflecting data for 2011. The 2013 books covering 2012 data will be available later this year.

Original Metra Martech Report:

Metra Martech's original report was delivered in February, 2011. It concluded that they had determined a job-creation ratio of 3.6 jobs for every robot deployed and that with more robots, fewer jobs are lost. That's why Germany, with hourly rates almost 50% higher than in the U.S., has remained globally competitive: they have twice as many robots per 10,000 workers as do Americans. 

Their research claimed that 3 million jobs were created in factories where accuracy and consistency could not be achieved without robots; and another 300,000 jobs were created where poor working conditions were overcome by the use of robots. 
Much has happened during and since 2008, the unfortunate base year for that report, which is why the IFR re-commissioned Metra Martech in 2012 to update their findings for more recent data.

Robots, Robotics and the 2013 Metra Martech Report:

Early this year CBS News 60 Minutes aired a segment asking but not answering the question: Are robots hurting job growth? Much criticism from robotics industry professionals followed and included an International Federation of Robotics CEO press conference where an abstract of the updated version of the Metra Martech report was presented. Under the banner Robots Create Jobs, they cited the following reasons why they opposed the CBS 60 Minutes piece and why robotics really does create jobs...MUCH MORE
I said in the first post:
It might just be me but the 2008 endpoint seems a bit dodgy and then there's the whole correlation  ≠ causation thing.
I'll have more later, in the meantime you have to watch those endpoints.