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Analysis of the impact of robotic systems on employment in the European Union. Final report

A study prepared for the European Commission DG Communications Networks, Content & Technology
: Jäger, Angela; Moll, Cornelius; Som, Oliver; Zanker, Christoph
: Kinkel, Steffen; Lichtner, Ralph

Fulltext (PDF; )

Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2015, VI, 84 pp.
ISBN: 978-92-79-48086-7
Report, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer ISI ()

Industrial robots and robot applications are a key enabling technology to improve the competitiveness of the European manufacturing industry and the overall welfare of society. This study provides novel empirical evidence that the positive stimulation provided by the further development and diffusion of industrial robot systems is a key enabler for exploiting the competitiveness and growth potentials of the European manufacturing industry.
Based on extensive firm-level analyses of data from the European Manufacturing Survey 2009, it is shown that the use of industrial robots does not have any – neither negative nor positive – direct effect on firm-level employment. Hence, the often referred to picture of industrial robots as “job killers” in the public discussion cannot be approved on behalf of this study. Instead, companies using industrial robots obtain significantly higher levels of productivity in their manufacturing processes. Likewise, firms with a higher vertical range of manufacturing, which can also be realised by using industrial robots, also show a better productivity performance. The potential of industrial robots to maintain industrial production in the EU is also reflected in the finding, that companies using industrial robots in their manufacturing and production are less likely to relocate production outside Europe.
The study concludes by identifying key aspects that should be taken into account when designing and implementing ongoing and future EU policies in the field of industrial robots. These mainly concern the barrier of investment costs, especially for small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) and the specific challenges faced by SMEs when trying to exploit the benefits of industrial robots in manufacturing and assembly.