Industrial robots and fertility in European countries

Matysiak A., , Bogusz H., Bellani D., University of Warsaw, Faculty of Economic Sciences, WP(26/2022)402.

In this study we examine whether the long-term structural changes in the labour market, driven by automation, affect fertility. Adoption of industrial robots in the EU has tripled since the mid-1990s, tremendously changing the conditions of participating in the labour market. On the one hand, new jobs are created, benefitting largely the highly skilled workers. On the other hand, the growing turnover in the labour market and changing content of jobs induce fears of job displacement and make workers continuously adjust to new requirements (reskill, upskill, increase work efforts). The consequences of these changes are particularly strong for the employment and earning prospects of the low and middle educated workers. Our focus is on six European countries: Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom. We link regional data on fertility and employment structures by industry from Eurostat (NUTS-2) with data on robot adoption from the International Federation of Robotics. We estimate fixed effects linear models with instrumental variables in order to account for the external shocks which may affect fertility and robot adoption in parallel. Our findings suggest robots tend to exert a negative impact on fertility in highly industrialised regions, regions with relatively low educated populations and those which are technologically less advanced. At the same time, better educated and prospering regions may even experience fertility improvements as a result of the technological change. The family and labour market institutions of the country may further moderate these effects.

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