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Advanced economies around the world face many challenges—in particular, raising productivity to ensure greater economic prosperity for their citizens, even as aging populations slow the growth of workforces. Against this backdrop, companies are rapidly adopting industrial robots—important productivity-driving tools that allow firms to produce more output per worker. The global average for industrial robots per 10,000 workers increased to 74 robots in 2016 from 66 robots in 2015, a 12 percent increase. This marks an acceleration from the 5 percent growth rate from 2014 to 2015.
In 2016, Korea was the world’s largest adopter of industrial robots, with 631 robots per 10,000 workers, Singapore came in second at 488 robots, Germany third at 309 robots, Japan fourth at 303 robots, and Sweden fifth at 223 robots. The United States ranks seventh with 189 industrial robots per 10,000 workers—but U.S. robot purchases are projected to increase by 15 percent annually for the next four years. In particular, the automobile industry generates the largest demand for industrial robots. Depending on the country, it accounts for 30 to 60 percent of total robot purchases.