Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Tracking the rise of robots: A survey of the IFR database and its applications

Klump, Rainer and Jurkat, Anne and Schneider, Florian (2021): Tracking the rise of robots: A survey of the IFR database and its applications.

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Abstract

Robots are continuously transforming industrial production worldwide and thereby also inducing changes in a variety of production-related economic and social relations. While some observers call this transformation an unprecedented "revolution", others regard it as a common pattern of capitalist development. This paper contributes to the literature on the effects of the rise of industrial robots in three ways. Firstly, we describe the historic evolution and organizational structure of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which collects data on the international distribution of industrial robots by country, industry, and application from industrial robot suppliers worldwide since 1993. Secondly, we extensively analyze this IFR dataset on industrial robots and point out its specificities and limitations. We develop a correspondence table between IFR industry classification and the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) Revision 4 and shed some light on the price development of industrial robots by compiling data on robot price indices. We further compute implicit depreciation rates inherent to the operational stocks of robots in the IFR dataset and find an average depreciation rate of aggregate robot stocks between 4% and 7% per year between 1993 and 2019. Moreover, tracking the share of industrial robots that are not classified to any industry or application we find that their share in total robot stocks has sharply declined after 2005. The average value of 45% of unspecified industrial robots at country level is therefore likely to shrink in the future. We also compare IFR data with other data sources such as UN Comtrade data on net imports and unit prices of industrial robots or data on robot adoption from firm-level surveys in selected countries. Thirdly, we provide a comprehensive overview of the empirical research on industrial robots that is based on the IFR dataset. We identify four important strands of research on the rise of robots: (i) patterns of robot adoption and industrial organization, (ii) productivity and growth effect of robot adoption, (iii) its impact on employment and wages, and (iv) its influence on demographics, health, and politics.

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