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Mitigation of risks of Covid-19 contagion and robotisation: evidence from Italy

The rapid and dramatic diffusion of the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy was tackled by the Italian government with social distancing measures and with the suspension of all economic activities, but ``essential'' sectors. A lively policy debate on more refined criteria to choose what activities to allow and to suspend in the future led INAIL (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work) to develop a measure of the risk of contagion in the workplace. In this paper we exploit this novel source of information about the risk of contagion in the workplace to study, for the first time, the cross-industry relationship between the estimated risk of contagion at work and the adoption of robots, so as to test the hypothesis that robotisation may facilitate social distancing and lower the risk of contagion. The analysis, which includes various controls of possible automation-related confounding factors and addresses possible issues of endogeneity, provides evidence that industries employing more robots per worker in production tend to exhibit a lower risk of contagion due to Covid-19. Results and policy implications for the selection of suspension criteria are discussed.

Lead investigator:

Mauro Caselli


University of Trento

Primary topic:

Jobs, work, pay & benefits

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Type of data being collected:

From private company

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