Photo (cc) by JohnGreenaway
Time asks: “Can Robots Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to the U.S.?” They say:
Manufacturing employment peaked at nearly 40% of the non-farm workforce during World War II and has since fallen to roughly 9% of the working population, according to data from the Labor Department. The total number of manufacturing jobs has been more or less steadily decreasing since the late 1970s.
Until 2010. In the past two years, Time notes, we’ve added half a million manufacturing jobs to the economy. It’s becoming more expensive to outsource labor and manage energy costs. Enough so that the scale may have tipped in favor of keeping factories and jobs here – especially if task-learning robots like Baxter can handle the basics foreign workers otherwise would. (See Baxter in action here.)
“[Rethink Robots co-founder Rodney] Brooks argues that Baxter is inexpensive enough to do the kind of rote tasks that many firms are paying workers in developing countries to do,” Time says. “This way, manufacturers can keep their factories at home and stay competitive on price.”
That might mean more manufacturing jobs – but as Time points out, it doesn’t mean they’ll have great pay.