The European Parliament rejected plans for a "robot tax" last February, but many experts remain in favor of the idea.
There is no insurance, save death and taxes, says a famous proverb. But is the tax something exclusive of human beings? In science fiction novels and films the role of robots has been painted in the future in many ways, but we have never imagined our android friends as taxpayers.
However, the somewhat futuristic concept of a "robot tax" is a real issue in Europe, although still somewhat far from becoming a reality. A long-established argument is that ever faster advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, the so-called robotic revolution, would lead to huge unemployment. A widely quoted study by Oxford University economists Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, predicts that within the next two decades, almost 50 percent of total employment in the United States. Is at "high risk" of being lost by automation and computerization.
Some experts think that automation could create new jobs
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Of course, such dramatic predictions raise many questions about the future of mankind, economics, and more. The most obvious question is: Who will pay taxes when robots and computers are doing all the work?
At the moment they get rid of having to pay taxes
In May 2016, a motion proposed by the European Parliament suggested that robots could soon be classified as "electronic people" whose owners would be required to pay taxes on their behalf. In February of this year, these plans were ultimately rejected, although parliament proposed to prepare legislation throughout the EU to regulate the increase of robotics in a number of areas.
But despite the EU decision, the issue continues to gain importance over time. Microsoft founder Bill Gates expressed strong support for the idea of a tax on automation and said its introduction was inevitable. Part of Gates' argument for a "robot tax" is that slowing the pace of automation advances would give governments more time to propose "transition programs" adequate to deal with the social consequences.
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"This argument we've been hearing for centuries," says Enzo Weber, an economist and specialist in labor market issues at the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB). "Someone always wants to protect some workers, but this would stop the pace of technological progress and this really would not be sensible," Weber said in an interview with DW.
"In general, I would be against the idea of a" robot tax "because the results of our research do not show a fall in employment as suggested," says the expert.
The machines, friends or enemies?
A 2016 study by economist Katharina Dengler on the impact of digitization on the labor market in Germany came to similar conclusions, countering the Fry and Osbourne study, and even suggesting that digitization could create new jobs and lead to a general increase Of employment.
In 2016 turnover in the German robotic industry increased by 7 percent to 12.2 billion euros. In addition, a higher percentage of the German workforce works in the industry (24.2 percent) than the EU average (21.9 percent). It is therefore not surprising that there is significant opposition to the idea of a robotic tax between industry leaders and trade unions.
However, most observers agree on one thing: the robots are approaching. If we are going to take away all the work, just a little or none at all, it is still a matter of debate.