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Seminar "When robots do (not) enhance job quality: The role of innovation regimes"

IOS-IZA-HSE University International Labor Seminar was held on November 16, 2021.

Speaker: Fabrizio Pompei (University of Perugia) 

Title: When robots do (not) enhance job quality: The role of innovation regimes

Whether robots have a positive impact on job quality depends on the dominant innovation regime in an industry. In an innovation regime with a high ‘cumulativeness of knowledge’, i.e., if a firm’s accumulation of (tacit) knowledge from experience is important for innovation, robots enhance the probability that workers will get permanent (other than temporary) contracts. The latter does, however, not hold for industries with ‘low-cumulativeness’ regimes when innovation depends primarily on general (and generally available) external knowledge. The rationale is that, in low cumulativeness regimes, workers are more easily exchangeable against others and hence have little negotiation power. Our results emerge from multi-level estimates of six EU countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), combining sectoral data on robot use with person-level data on properties of workers. Our findings imply that previous studies tended to find weak effects of robotization on employment as they did not control for innovation regimes. An implication for European industrial policy is that more flexibility in labour relations (and shorter job tenures) is likely to have a negative impact on the productive use of robot technology in industries with a high cumulativeness of knowledge, and less so in low-cumulativeness industries. Labour market deregulation can have a problematic impact on technology use and should be reconsidered.
Joint paper with Mirella Damiani (University of Perugia) & Alfred Kleinknecht (TU Delft and Free University of Amsterdam). 


Paper for the seminar