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Robots and risk of COVID-19 workplace contagion: Evidence from Italy

Mauro Caselli (), Andrea Fracasso () and Silvio Traverso

Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2021, vol. 173, issue C

Abstract: This work investigates the cross-industry relationship between robot adoption and the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace in Italy. Using a novel dataset on the risk of workplace contagion, we show that industries employing more robots tend to exhibit lower risks, thereby providing some empirical support for the widely held, but so far untested, hypothesis that robots can help mitigate the risk of contagion among workers by reducing the need for physical interactions. While we acknowledge the relevance of robots in the fight against COVID-19 and their possible role in enhancing the resilience of economic systems against future pandemics, we also thoroughly discuss a series of potential trade-offs between workplace safety and employment conditions that could arise (especially in the short run) due to a substantial increase in the rate of robot adoption.

Keywords: Robotisation; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Risk of contagion (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I19 O33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2021.121097

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