Automation or Globalization? The Impacts of Robots and Chinese Imports on Jobs in the United Kingdom

18 August 2021

Chinchih Chen and Carl Benedikt Frey
View Journal Article / Working Paper

In this paper, we examine how Chinese import competition and robot adoption shaped employment patterns in 352 cities across the United Kingdom. We find that cities whose initial industry composition exposed them to industrial robots and China’s integration into the world economy experienced significant employment declines between 1991 and 2007. When pitched against other capital and technologies, the impact of robots remains distinct. Our findings suggest that one more robot per thousand workers reduced the employment-to-population ratio by 1.18 percentage points, while an increase of $1,000 imports from China per worker reduced the employmentto-population ratio by 0.78 percentage points.