Journal article

Are Robots Taking Our Jobs?

J Borland, M Coelli

The Australian Economic Review | Wiley | Published : 2017


This article assesses the effect of computer-based technologies on employment in Australia. We find that: (i) the total amount of work available has not decreased following the introduction of computer-based technologies; and (ii) the pace of structural change and job turnover in the labour market has not accelerated with the increasing application of computer-based technologies. A review of recent studies that claim computer-based technologies may be about to cause widespread job destruction establishes several major flaws with these predictions. Our suggested explanation for why techno-phobia has such a grip on popular imagination is a human bias to believe that ‘we live in special times’.


Awarded by ARC Discovery Grant

Funding Acknowledgements

A version of this article was initially presented as an invited lecture at the Commonwealth Department of Employment in April 2017. It has also been presented in seminars at Swinburne University, Deakin University and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We are grateful for valuable comments from many participants at those talks. We thank Graeme Davison and Geoff Blainey for helpful suggestions on historical literature, Ulrich Zierahn for assistance in constructing estimates of the automation risk of Australian jobs using the Arntz, Gregory and Zierahn (2016, 2017) procedure, and David Autor, John Daley, Jim Minifie, Leon Mann and Greg Williams for extremely useful suggestions. Research in this article has been funded by ARC Discovery Grant DP160102269.