Job Automation Risk, Economic Structure and Trade: a European Perspective

N. Foster-McGregor, O. Nomaler, B. Verspagen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recent studies report that technological developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence present a significant risk to jobs in advanced countries. We re-estimate automation risk at the job level, finding sectoral employment structure to be key in determining automation risk at the country level. At the country level, we find a negative relationship between automation risk and labour productivity. We then analyse the role of trade as a factor leading to structural changes and consider the relation between trade and aggregate automation risk by comparing automation risk between a hypothetical autarky and the actual situation. Results indicate that with trade, automation risk is higher in Europe, although moderately so. Automation risk in the high-productivity European countries is higher with trade, with trade between European and non-European nations driving these results. This implies that these countries do not, on balance, offshore automation risk, but rather import it. The sectors that show the largest automation risk relation to trade are manufacturing, trade, transport and finance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104269
Number of pages11
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

JEL classifications

  • f16 - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
  • f66 - Globalization: Labor
  • o33 - "Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes"
  • j24 - "Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity"


  • Automation risk for employment
  • Sectoral Employment Structure
  • Industry 4.0
  • Globalization, Global Value Chains


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