Theory suggests that ‘directly affected’ workers who perform substitutable tasks, such as those employed in blue-collar, routine occupations, are more likely to be losers from robot adoption, while the productivity gains these machines bring could benefit workers performing complementary tasks. But there is surprisingly little evidence on this first-order protection. This column by Daron Acemoglu, Hans Koster and Ceren Ozgen uses data from the Netherlands to show that directly affected workers face lower earnings and employment rates, while other workers indirectly gain from robot adoption. This is true both for workers employed in robot-adopting firms and their competitors.