Robots are not that scary
Where does the fear of robots stealing our jobs come from and is it justified? Labour sociologist Fabian Dekker from Erasmus University Rotterdam has some serious doubts.
Robots also create new jobs, he says. 'But the whole discourse is ruined through media and lousy research. We have to stop this discussion and find ways for risk groups to stay in business'.
In an article published in Socio-Economic Review, Dekker and two colleagues make an attempt to turn the discussion around. Barely one percent of employers have introduced a robot at work in the past two years, he wrote over a year ago on behalf of the Scientific Council for Government Policy. So who are the people who fear for their jobs? And what is it based on?
To get an answer, Dekker looked at data from twenty European countries. He found that countries with poor economy fear robots most. In Spain and Italy, for example, where a large proportion of young people is unemployed. Also lower educated people are scared. They can be replaced by robots more easily than high educated people.
'Robotics create a new dividing line on the labor market: women are more anxious than men. Probably because they have clerical occupations more often, which can be easily taken over by robots. Fear diminishes when people have worked with robots before'.
What we should do? We need to experiment. People need to be introduced to robots, so that fear decreases.