South Korea has introduced what is being called the world’s first tax on robots amid fears that machines will replace human workers, leading to mass unemployment.
The country will limit tax incentives for investments in automated machines as part of a newly proposed revision of its tax laws.
It is hoped the policy will make up for lost income taxes as workers are gradually replaced by machines, as well as filling welfare coffers ahead of an expected rise in unemployment, according to the Korea Times.
Experts predict robot workers will replace humans in numerous industries in the near future, with machines and artificial intelligence expected to take a third of British jobs by 2030.
The South Korean Government said it will reduce tax deduction benefits for investment in automation, which had been introduced to boost productivity. The proposal could come into force at the end of the year, when the country’s current tax law is due to expire.
“Though it is not about a direct tax on robots, it can be interpreted as a similar kind of policy considering that both involve the same issue of industrial automation,” an industry source told the Korea Times.
Korea is the first country to implement a robot tax, but it is not the only one to have proposed a technology levy.
Bill Gates has previously called for a tax on robots to balance the Government’s income as jobs are lost to automation. He said the levy could help slow down the pace of change and provide money to hire additional employees in sectors that require people, such as health care.
“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things,” said Gates in February. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”
Companies and robotics companies have criticised such proposals, saying a tax on robots would be detrimental to businesses and impede innovation.
Industries most at risk from automation include transportation, manufacturing and waste management, according to PwC. Robots are less likely to replace humans in roles that require critical thinking and creativity.
British firms have already started trialing robots in the workplace, with roles including food delivery, receptionist and office management.