German robots: The impact of industrial robots on workers
We study the impact of rising robot exposure on the careers of individual manufacturing workers, and the equilibrium impact across industries and local labor markets in Germany. We find no evidence that robots cause total job losses, but they do affect the composition of aggregate employment. Every robot destroys two manufacturing jobs. This accounts for almost 23% of the overall decline of manufacturing employment in Germany over the period 1994–2014, roughly 275,000 jobs. But this loss was fully offset by additional jobs in the service sector. Moreover, robots have not raised the displacement risk for incumbent manufacturing workers. Quite in contrast, more robot exposed workers are even more likely to remain employed in their original workplace, though not necessarily performing the same tasks, and the aggregate manufacturing decline is solely driven by fewer new jobs for young labor market entrants. This enhanced job stability for insiders comes at the cost of lower wages. The negative impact of robots on individual earnings arises mainly for medium-skilled workers in machine operating occupations, while high-skilled managers gain. In the aggregate, robots raise labor productivity but not wages. Thereby they contribute to the decline of the labor income share.