American workers are more productive than ever, but their paychecks haven't kept pace. Researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco have a culprit: robots.
Economists Sylvain Leduc and Zheng Liu theorize that automation is sapping employees' bargaining power, making it harder for them to demand higher wages. Companies across a range of industries increasingly have the option of using technology to handle work formerly done by people, giving employers the upper hand in setting pay. The result — a widening gulf between wages and productivity.
The research may bolster proposals for, which is a government cash stipend that typically doesn't come with requirements. Andrew Yang, a Democratic presidential candidate who's running on a platform of giving every in basic income, tweeted about the economic findings, writing that automation is "making it hard for workers to ask for more."
"We should just give Americans a raise," he wrote.
To be sure, automation is leading to massive changes in work that are hitting some industries and workers especially hard, such as lower and middle-skilled workers. For instance, the ranks of office assistants and clerical workers is expected tothrough 2026 as offices shift tasks to artificial intelligence and other software, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This could result in a loss of 200,000 jobs.
The culprit, they say, could be automation, partly because workers could be fearful of asking for a raise out of concern their boss might turn to technology to replace them.
\"The steady decline in the relative prices of robots and automation equipment over the past few decades have made it increasingly profitable to automate,\" the economists said. \"In this environment, workers may be reluctant to ask for significant pay raises out of fear that an employer will replace their jobs with robots.\"