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Could we up with too few robots rather than too many in the future?

Summary:
See This Economy Is Not Aging Gracefully: The American population is getting older, and that has devastating consequences for the economy. Could robots save us? by Eduardo Porter of The New York Times. "Consider the bluntest measure of progress: economic growth. Comparing growth across American states that are aging at different speeds, researchers from Harvard’s Medical School and the RAND Corporation concluded that a 10 percent increase in the share of the population over 60 reduced the growth rate of per capita gross domestic product by 5.5 percent. They projected that aging would shave no less than 1.2 percentage points off annual economic growth this decade.Part of this is because of a shrinking labor supply. As baby boomers move into retirement, leaving the work force to

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See This Economy Is Not Aging Gracefully: The American population is getting older, and that has devastating consequences for the economy. Could robots save us? by Eduardo Porter of The New York Times.
"Consider the bluntest measure of progress: economic growth. Comparing growth across American states that are aging at different speeds, researchers from Harvard’s Medical School and the RAND Corporation concluded that a 10 percent increase in the share of the population over 60 reduced the growth rate of per capita gross domestic product by 5.5 percent. They projected that aging would shave no less than 1.2 percentage points off annual economic growth this decade.

Part of this is because of a shrinking labor supply. As baby boomers move into retirement, leaving the work force to the smaller cohorts behind them, the share of Americans who are working is shrinking, while the share of the elderly who depend on the fruits of their work is rising. By 2030, only 59 percent of adults over 16 will be in the labor force. That’s three percentage points less than in 2015."

"two-thirds of the growth shortfall comes from slowing labor-productivity growth.

It’s not obvious why the change in composition of workers (more workers in their 50s and 60s, fewer in their 20s and 30s) slows down innovation. It may be that older workers have a harder time learning new skills, so businesses with an older work force may be less likely to deploy new tech.

Whatever the precise cause, the slowdown shows up in the data. Mark Zandi and colleagues at Moody’s Analytics concluded that aging over the past 15 years reduced productivity in the United States by 0.25 percent to 0.7 percent per year.

Other researchers suggest that an older, smaller labor force can also account for the sluggish rate of business start-ups. Roughly half of American companies are at least 11 years old, up from less than one-third in the late 1980s. For all the hype about Silicon Valley’s explosive entrepreneurship, there are fewer young companies entering the marketplace now than there were a generation ago. Hugo Hopenhayn of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues argue that this is caused in large part by a declining labor supply."

"In a study of several advanced economies from 1990 to 2015, the economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo found that aging was actually associated with rising living standards. As workers became scarce, businesses invested in automation to replace them, as well as in other new technologies, all of which raised productivity and incomes.

We may end up with too few robots rather than too many. Even the most aggressive projections of future automation, Mr. Acemoglu and Mr. Restrepo estimate, will not fill the hole that retiring Americans are projected to leave in the work force. That may be a problem: For all the misgivings about a world in which machines perform most of the work once done by humans, how else can we afford to get old?"

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