Hug a robot? Study concludes UK workers should embrace automatons

Hug a robot? Study concludes UK workers should embrace automatons
Workers shouldn’t fear the rise of the robots, argues the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS). Automation should be embraced as an opportunity for economic growth; raising wages of workers and increasing productivity, argued the report’s author Daniel Mahoney.

Any attempt to “impede mechanisation” by taxing companies that replace human workers with robots, a policy the Labour Party has been sympathetic to, would be economically damaging, according to the report. “Impeding mechanisation would further suppress productivity growth, depress wage growth and encourage economic activity to locate elsewhere – thereby reducing the tax base to pay for public services.

Instead of providing deterrents for companies wishing to automate, the government should be encouraging the process. “If anything, the UK’s problem is having too few robots, not too many. There are only 71 for every 10,000 employees in manufacturing, compared to more than 300 in Germany,” wrote Mahoney the head of economic research at CPS.

The CPS’ release comes after numerous reports warning of the dangers of automation. In 2013, a University of Oxford report warned that robots could put 35 percent of UK jobs at risk, while the Bank of England has calculated that 15 million jobs could be lost. In direct contravention to those studies, Mahoney stated that “It is unlikely that net employment will fall as a result of mechanisation – and the UK is at lower risk than other developed nations.

The CPS’ works comes after fellow think tank ‘Localis’ released research warning of the consequences of automation, along with Brexit, to the UK job market. Localis researcher Joe Fyans told RT that “While we do not challenge the CPS report, we would draw attention to the fact that focusing on net employment smooths over the vast disparities in the way automation will be experienced across different places in the country.

Automation is not a negative thing in and of itself, indeed it is as necessary to the UK economy as it is inevitable. Nevertheless, there is a clear role for government in working to ensure its positive and negative effects are not unfairly distributed across the UK.

While not officially adopting the policy, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for the rewards from “automation” to be “publicly managed,” leading to suggestions that he was calling for a ‘tax on robots’. The policy, originally posited by Luxembourgish MEP Mady Delvaux, has gained popularity, winning the unlikely support of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, who argued that governments could use the robot tax to fund human services.