Investments in Robots and AI Just Topped $16 Billion. Here’s What it Means for Jobs.

It’s official: there are more robots than ever before. And there are numbers to back it up. In fact, shipments of robots are going to jump a whopping 39% from 2018 to 2022, according to Bloomberg, which means annual sales are expected to top $16.5 billion.

“More than a third of global installations were in China and the top five countries hold 74% of the market. Japan, Korea, the U.S. and Germany round out this group. China’s investment in robots reached $5.4 billion last year,” according to the publication.

Notably, there are also statistics that illustrate how more robots are making their way into the workplace. According to the World Robotics Report, “The total number of professional service robots sold in 2018 rose by 61% to more than 271,000 units, up from roughly 168,000 in 2017.” The most popular types of robots that fit under this umbrella of professional services include logistics systems, inspection and maintenance systems, medical robots and field robots, according to the report.

“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” according to Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics, in an interview with Bloomberg.

Interestingly, the report finds that U.S. companies, European companies and Asian companies all tend to specialize in manufacturing different types of robots. “European and American service robot manufacturers play an important role in the market for professional use: both regions have a market share of about 45 percent,” according to the report. “American companies are very strong in logistic systems whereas European companies dominate in the field of medical robotics. European and Asian companies mainly produce the field robots – both with a market share of about 45 percent.”

Although these robots will tackle workplace problems largely around menial labor, it’s important to note that highly skilled workers will not be replaced. Instead, more robots appearing in the workplace will actually create a greater need for people with additional technical skills. Why? Robots are mostly expected to take over physical tasks that will then allow humans to take on more skilled professions. “There’s the possibility that AI, rather than replacing workers, will mostly just allow them to do their jobs more easily. And even as some jobs are eliminated, new ones will pop up, possibly at higher wages,” according to a recent Bloomberg article.

Additionally, with more robots entering the workplace, there will be a greater need for individuals with strong engineering and technology backgrounds to develop, manage and provide maintenance. These types of roles tend to pay higher wages, thus providing greater opportunities for human employees.

In conclusion, more robots are entering the workforce now and in the coming years. But instead of taking away jobs from people, they’ll actually provide even greater opportunities for more highly skilled workers.