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Robots versus labor skills: a complementarity/substitutability analysis

Michele Battisti (), Massimo Del Gatto, A. F. Gravina and Christopher Parmeter

Working Paper CRENoS from Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia

Abstract: The rise of artificial intelligence and automation is fueling anxiety about the replacementof workers with robots and digital technologies. Relying upon a (country-sector-year) constructed measure of robotic capital (RK), we study the extent of complementarity/substitutabilitybetween robots and workers at different skill levels (i.e., high-, medium- and low-skilled workers). The analysis points to a higher elasticity of substitution (EoS) - i.e., higher substitutability - between RK and unskilled labor, compared to skilled labor. Furthermore, we find evidence of polarizing effects, according to which middle-skilled workers, typically employed in intermediate routine and/or codifiable tasks, are the most vulnerable to robotization. Results turn out to be robust to using different - i) definitions of EoS; ii) computations of RK; iii) samples of countries and industries (WIOD vs EU KLEMS data); iv) skill grouping.

Keywords: Automation; robotization; elasticity of substitution; technology; polarization (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-big, nep-edu, nep-knm, nep-lma and nep-tid
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