Too Few Robots in the West Compared to Asia, Research Says

As more industries around the world work to boost their productivity to remain competitive, countries are considering automation as a path toward more efficiency. Today, robot adoption is another measure of success, with countries’ economies ranked by the extent to which robots help enhance productivity in a global economy that is now slowing.

“Robots will be critical for boosting productivity in future years and that’s the only way that our living standards will grow,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, or ITIF, a nonprofit public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C. , that focuses on technology research.

Advanced economies such as South Korea, Singapore and Germany lead the way in the number of robots used per worker, followed by Japan, Sweden and Denmark, according to new research from ITIF that uses 2017 figures from the International Federation of Robotics, examining the number of robots employed per 10,000 manufacturing workers. The U.S. ranks seventh, with an adoption rate of less than 30 percent than that of South Korea. Brazil, Russia and India finish last.

Yet the countries succeeding in automation include emerging economies , according to the ITIF research that examines 27 nations. Success is especially being found in Asia.

[ MORE: These countries are seen as having up-and-coming economies.]

The reasons are found in factoring in the variance in worker wages among countries, the ITIF study shows .

“On a wage-adjusted basis, Southeast Asian nations lead the world in robot adoption, occupying six of the top seven positions in the ranking: (South) Korea leads the world with 2.4 times more robots adopted than expected, followed in order by Singapore, Thailand, China, and Taiwan,” writes Rob Atkinson in the ITIF report. Japan ranks seventh, falling from its fourth spot when controlling for the number of workers, while countries in the West are considerably behind. Canada ranks 14th, the U.K. is 23rd and Australia finishes 24th.

[ MORE: Japanese fear the future and blame robots.]

The number of industrial robots as a share of manufacturing workers is not always the most relevant metric, the ITIF says, since manufacturing workers are not paid equally around the world. Replacing humans with automated robotic systems doesn’t bring in the same savings in all countries. While advanced economies with high-paid workers benefit the most from installing robots, the ITIF research shows some are lagging behind in adoption rates.

According to a 2017 study by the Center for Economics and Business Research, investment in robots added 10 percent growth to the gross domestic product in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1993 to 2016. But robot adoption across industries is still in the early stages. The world average for industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers went from 66 robots in 2015 to 74 robots in 2016, to 85 in 2017, according to the ITIF report, citing data from the International Federation of Robotics.

Only two countries in Europe adopt more robots than expected considering wage levels, Rob Atkinson writes. Slovenia ranked sixth in the top with a rate of 37 percent above the expected levels, and the Czech Republic ranked eighth, with an adoption rate 25 percent higher than the expected one. All other EU nations reported adoption rates lower than expectation.

The United States is also behind using this methodology, ranking 16th when controlling for wages, with an adoption rate 49 percent below expected, the ITIF reported.

“In part, this reflects an overall lag in capital expenditures by U.S. manufacturers and an almost complete lack of a national robotics strategy.”

Recent research from the Center for Data Innovation also warns that while the Unites States is currently leading in employing artificial intelligence, the situation can drastically change in the absence of a coherent government plan to boost the sector.

“Many other countries, including China, France, and the United Kingdom, are developing significant initiatives to gain global market share in AI,” the author of the ITIF report says. “While the U.S. government has taken some steps, it lacks a comprehensive strategy to proactively spur the development and adoption of AI.”

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Too Few Robots in the West Compared to Asia, Research Says originally appeared on usnews.com