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Robots Boost Productivity, But Humans Still Needed on the Job, Report Says

  • Jim Randle

FILE - One of Amazon's distribution centers in Tracy, Calif., is seen during a tour, Nov. 30, 2014. This Amazon Fulfillment Center opened in 2013 and was refitted to use new robotics technology the next year.

The United States has the world's largest stock of robots, and the number is growing fast.

A report published Wednesday by Redwood Software and the Center for Economics and Business Research said investment surged to $86 billion in 2015 as more, better and cheaper robots were deployed.

The authors, whose firms are based in the Netherlands and Britain, said robotics plays an outsized role in boosting worker productivity and economic growth worldwide.

The surge in robot workers in the U.S. follows the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs, which many experts blame on the rising tide of automation in factories. Discontent over these lost jobs helped upend U.S. politics last year and raised concerns that job losses to robots would spread from manufacturing to the far larger services sector of the U.S. economy.

In a VOA interview, Redwood Software's Neil Kinson said such fears were misplaced. He noted that Germany's economy is highly automated but nevertheless has a shortage of human workers.

Redwood, which is based in the Netherlands but also operates in other European countries and in the United States, specializes in crafting automation to handle business processes, particularly those that are repetitive, rule-bound and tedious.

Kinson said that leaves the more complex, rewarding and interesting work for people. He said the jobs least likely to be automated were those that require dealing with people.

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