Robotization is an economic necessity for sectors facing labour shortages. On the other hand, the critics of the process are mainly afraid of losing jobs. However, the impact of automation on the dynamics of the labour market is both more nuanced and reassuring.
Cobot – robot-human collaboration
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are gaining ground in more and more sectors after a quick overwrite of initial doubts, resentments and reservations. The process, in contrast to the common fear, does not automatically involve the loss of jobs, but rather the transformation of daily duties – according to CobotX Technologies.
Robots work in a constant quality 24 hours a day in 3 shifts, never get tired, and don’t have a lunch break. Besides these unquestionable advantages, it takes only a few hours to train them and they don’t even ask for a salary thus greatly reducing manufacturing costs.
However, the use of robots does not turn the job market on its head in just one moment. Collaborative robots in particular are not, as the name also suggests: working together. Robots and humans can only work together effectively if we build on the strengths of both of them: machines are fast and precise, and humans are intelligent and creative.
Not robots but market demands shape the future
During the coronavirus epidemic, in Hungary also, robots did not take jobs, but rather solved labour shortages. According to the Hungarian Central Statistics Office’s 2020 end-of-year survey, in addition to the public sector, most of the employees work in the industrial sector, including the manufacturing industry, the commercial and automotive repair sector, and transportation. However, the Office also points out that labour shortages have been highest in these sectors for many years.
The National Association of Facility Management and Building Operators (LEO FM) also indicated in its 2021 summary that robotization is not due to the pandemic but to a shortage of manpower, which has been a burning problem in the sector since 2010.
It is critical how people welcome automation
There are mixed feelings about robotizing. As Deutsche Welle wrote in a report, workers tend to sabotage robots in Hungary. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has also drawn attention to this, signalling that people’s attitudes to automation will be critical to increasing productivity after the Covid era.
As reassuring examples CobotX cites reports from busy factory halls where collisions and accidents have occurred in the past, but thanks to the sensors in collaborative robots a safer work environment made even sceptical workers more acceptable.
As a result of the pandemic, millions of people felt that mental and physical health were far more important than their work. This is especially the view of those who have performed a tedious, repetitive, burdensome or dangerous task.
Now cobots can easily take over these dangerous and/or tedious jobs, and employees can take on higher value-added jobs.
It is also worth considering that a new generation is gradually entering the labour market, who are not only accepting machines but expecting non-challenging jobs to be filled by robots. An additional advantage of robotization for the employer is that – thanks to cobots and robots – It is easier to engage the increasingly valuable human workforce with more varied and interesting tasks.