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Robot orders increase 40% amid labour shortage

·2 min read
Companies are spending millions on robots such as this Hitachi machine (AFP/Getty)
Companies are spending millions on robots such as this Hitachi machine (AFP/Getty)

Orders for workplace robots increased by 40 per cent in the first three months of 2022 amid a labour shortage in the US, according to new figures.

A report by the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), first cited by the Wall Street Journal, found that orders worth $1.6bn (£1.3bn) were placed between January and March.

The surge in demand coincided with US job openings reaching a record high of 11.5 million in March as employers struggled to find workers.

Separate data from Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (Jolts), published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that job openings were rising in retail, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing.

The Jolts report signals a major imbalance between worker demand and supply in the US, with job openings nearly twice as high as pre-pandemic levels.

March also saw record-high figures for people quitting their jobs, as 4.5 million left in search of better pay or working conditions. Dubbed the Great Resignation, the economic trend has been attributed to wage stagnation, an increase in popularity of remote working, and the rising cost of living.

The report from A3 suggests that businesses are increasingly looking to plug gaps in production lines with machines, with car manufacturers joined by electronics, food processing and warehousing as the leading industries for robotic workers.

“More industries recognised that robotics could help reverse productivity declines and fill repetitive jobs human workers don’t want,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3.

“It is no longer a choice whether to deploy robots and automation. It’s now an absolute imperative. As we’ve long believed – and users continue to confirm – robots help companies compete, ultimately creating more jobs to handle their growth.”

The Future of Jobs Report 2020, commissioned by the World Economic Forum, found that 43 per cent of businesses surveyed intend to reduce their workforce due to technology integration.

An estimated 85 million jobs could be displaced by 2025. However, the report also predicted that “the number of jobs destroyed will be surpassed by the number of ‘jobs of tomorrow’ created”.