Are They Coming for Us? Industrial Robots and the Mental Health of Workers
34 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 26 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 25, 2021
We investigate whether an increase in the robot intensity (the ratio of industrial robots over employment) affects the self-reported mental health of workers in Germany. To do so, we combine individual mental health data from the German Socioeconomic Panel with the stock of robots of 15 manufacturing sectors provided by the International Federation of Robotics for the period 2002-2014. Controlling for a range of individual and sectoral characteristics, and employing individual-, time- and sectoral-fixed effects, we find that a one standard deviation increase in robot intensity is associated with an average decrease of 0.11 standard deviations of mental health. This effect seems to be driven mainly by the fear of a decline in an individual’s own economic situation, personal income and working hours, especially for those performing routine tasks and males. Moreover, further sample divisions into low, middle and high occupational groups show that the negative effects are affecting mostly the middle-level occupational group. Splitting the sample according to different age groups shows that the mental health of younger workers is the most vulnerable to an increase in automation. Results are also robust to instrumenting the stock of robots, and to changes in the sample size.
Keywords: Mental Health, Industrial Robots, Germany, Job Loss Fear, Job Polarization
JEL Classification: O33, I15, I31, J24
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