Nicole Wu, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance, Princeton University
Discussions on the future of work emphasize the negative effects of labor-replacing technology on employment and wages. However, original surveys and field research show that Chinese manufacturing workers consider themselves beneficiaries of technological adoption. This paper presents quantitative and qualitative evidence from two original surveys of over 2,400 workers and 600 companies in the manufacturing sector, interviews of firm managers and workers from 76 companies, and 34 factory visits in 19 cities. It finds that insofar as laborers experience automation anxiety, local workers are more likely than internal migrant workers to worry about technological displacement and are more pessimistic about their prospects of securing comparable employment after displacement. Meanwhile, migrant workers face systematic labor market discrimination, and the availability of exit options comparable to their status quo contributes to their lower anxiety about automation compared to locals.