The U.K. needs more robots to help solve economic problems like worker shortages and low efficiency, industry groups said Monday.
We see “these headlines, some are fear-mongering or alarmist, that robots may take jobs,” Patrick Schwarzkopf, Managing Director of the VDMA Robotics and Automation Association, said in London. “The reality is that the problem might not be that robots are installed — the problem might be that robots are not installed.”
Highly robotized economies including Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Japan have very low jobless rates, he noted, and sectors like the German automotive industry show that there can be simultaneous growth in employment and the use of robots.
The U.K. has long relied on imported labor, which some economists say deters firms from investing in new equipment and machinery. That could be one contributing factor to the U.K.’s abysmal productivity performance, which is now around 20% below its pre-2008 path.
With a new points-based immigration systemset to take hold in 2021, British firms will no longer be able to rely on the free flow of workers from the European Union. That will probably force them to automate, according to Mike Wilson, chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association.
Part of the issue for the U.K. could be cultural. “We tend to be very risk averse, we don’t like to use new technologies, and robotic automation is perceived as risky,” Wilson said. “We should be buying new equipment to be more competitive and more efficient.”
By Jill Ward,