The last century has been full of unprecedented technological advancements. Such advancements in production, communication and transportation have not managed to majorly disrupting our labour share. Hence it is safe to say that if your main worry over collaborative robots is losing your job, then you’ll probably be fine.
Based on historical data, economists reckon that the primary driver of employment has been population growth rather than machine automation. In simple terms, the more numerous we get, the higher the factory output. Therefore a production demand increase results in job creation.
Source: David Autor, Anna Salomons (MIT Dept of Economics)
From the above graph, we depict that jobs available in industrialised countries are keeping pace with the continuously growing population. However, a greater concern over industry automation is how will it affect your paycheck. In other words the earnings distribution per job category.
All the upcoming new jobs that are strongly automated are out of reach to workers without a post-secondary education. New jobs complemented by advances in technology will require less labour intensive skills. Therefore new jobs generated by an automated industry might not offer a sustainable standard of living. The industry will have to shuffle its human capital investment in order to reach a new era of product manufacturing.
So if the problem is not labour demand, but employment distribution and earnings, then we might have to explore new ways on what technology will mean for the future of work.