Future of Work - Major trends

The deployment of industrial robots is rapidly intensifying, with the potential to change production processes worldwide

The demand for industrial robots has accelerated considerably in recent years as a result of continued technological advancements in automation systems and artificial intelligence. Since 2010, industrial robots have increased by 9 per cent year and at the end of 2015 some 1.6 million robots were deployed by industries worldwide. More than two thirds of industrial robots are in the manufacturing sector, and a similar proportion is concentrated in developed countries. The adoption of robots in emerging countries is occurring with some lag. Consequently, robot density in manufacturing – measured as the number of industrial robots per 1,000 people employed – ranged from 14 in developed countries to 2 in emerging ones in 2015, increasing significantly since 2011.

Figure: Robot density in manufacturing (number of multipurpose industrial robots per 1,000 person employed in the manufacturing sector)
Source: ILO Trend Econometric Model November, 2016; World Robotics Industrial Robots Database, International Federation of Robotics

The rapidly growing adoption of industrial robots has the potential to bring about large productivity gains worldwide and create new jobs, with positive spillovers on aggregate demand. However, its effect on societies at large will depend on how fairly gains from economic growth will be distributed. Making the new wave of technological breakthrough as inclusive as possible will inevitably require considerable investments in terms of training and skills upgrading to smooth the transition from existing to new jobs.