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Why Britain Needs More Robots

Why Britain Needs More Robots
Image credit: iStock/PhonlamaiPhoto
  • Worries over the impact of automation on jobs are increasingly widespread, with the Labour Party floating measures that would impede mechanisation.

  • 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.

  • It is unlikely that net employment will fall as a result of mechanisation – and the UK is at lower risk than other developed nations.

  • Taxing robots would not protect jobs. On the contrary, 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.

  • Calls for a Universal Basic Income are premature. It would be costly, distort the labour market and, in any case, income inequality has been falling.
  • Nevertheless, the potential for automation to lead to growing income inequality is a concern. The best way to counter this, however, is not by nationalising the robots, but by reforming skills and training.

Daniel Mahoney - Wednesday 8th November 2017

Daniel joined the Centre for Policy Studies as Head of Economic Research in November 2015. He was promoted to Deputy Director in March 2017. Prior to joining the CPS, he worked in research roles for a number of parliamentarians. Daniel left the CPS in March 2018.