As robots play a more important role in the EU, moving from manufacturing to healthcare, Europeans are becoming more suspicious of the technology, a Eurobarometer survey shows.
According to the poll, which was carried out in all EU member states in November and December 2014, two-thirds of those surveyed (64%) have a positive view of robots, down from 70% in 2012, except in Hungary (49%), Cyprus (46%) and Greece (45%).
Danes and Swedes (both at 84%) have the most positive view of robots’ role in society, followed by the Dutch (77%) and the Poles (75%).
The European Commission said it tasked Eurobarometer with the survey, as the EU executive is aware of “understandable concerns about the rapid pace of technological change”, specifically about the role which robots will play in our society.
20% of EU citizens are considering purchasing a robot for their home in the future, particularly in he Nordic countries and Central Europe, but respondents in Eastern and Southern Europe are more hesitant.
More than one-third (36%) believe that their current job could be at least partially done by a robot in the future. In four countries (Bulgaria, Poland, Croatia and Hugary) at least half of the respondents thought that their current jobs could be done at least partially by robots.
At the other end of the scale, less than a quarter of those surveyed in the Netherlands (24%), Denmark (22%) and Luxembourg (20%) take this view.
Changing demographics and more robots
Jørgen Løkkegaard, director for the Technological Institute in Denmark, said he was not surprised that Danes have a positive view of robots, as the country has been forced to use more and more of the technology in the healthcare sector.
“We have experienced the transformation with our own eyes every year when we educate hundreds of new employees for the healthcare sector to use robots and other welfare technologies. The (scepticism) we experienced during the first couple of years has been replaced by a remarkable goodwill,” Løkkegaard told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Løkkegaard said that a big reason for this goodwill is the fact that the welfare state is under pressure. Changing demographics have left more people in the need of quality care, with fewer hands available to help out.
“The municipalities have been forced to think creatively in order to meet the changing demographics. But the fact that you can combine cost cuts with an increased quality of life puts the welfare technologies in a win-win category,” he said.