Robots endanger up to two-thirds of emerging economy jobs: UN

Workers at the Nissan Rosslyn plant in Rosslyn, South Africa.
Lucky Nxumalo | City Press Gallo Images | Getty Images
Workers at the Nissan Rosslyn plant in Rosslyn, South Africa.

Robots could be set to displace millions of jobs across the globe with industries favoring a digital revolution at the expense of human workers, according to a report from the United Nations.


Mexico and Asia 'most exposed'

Artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace is most prevalent in the automotive and electronic industries and countries with a particular focus on exports, such as Mexico and developing economies in Asia, are identified as the "most exposed" to an AI influx, according to a policy brief by the UN Conference on Trade and Development published this week in conjunction with research from the World Bank.

"The share of occupations that could experience significant automation is actually higher in developing countries than in more advanced ones, where many of these jobs have already disappeared, and this concerns about two thirds of all jobs," the policy brief said.

The UN report, published Tuesday, advised that though the use of robots could bring new opportunities for developing economies, it would be important to consider taxing the use of automation which should, in theory, prevent inequality.

Robot integration

Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive officer of SolarCity, Tesla and SpaceX told CNBC earlier this week that governments would likely have to pay workers' wages after robots displace people from employment.

"I think that there is a pretty good chance that we end up with a universal basic income or something like that due to automation," he said.

"We've got to figure out how we integrate with a world in the future with advanced artificial intelligence."

In every year since 2013, according to the UN policy brief, China has bought more industrial robots than any other country and the report forecasts that by the end of 2016, it will overtake Japan as the world's biggest operator of automated machines.