A new study by the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities examines how technology is affecting workplaces in five major sectors across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the transformation that enterprises and workers can expect in the next decade.
Amongst the key findings is one that is rather alarming, indicating that 56% of current employment in the selected ASEAN countries are at high risk of displacement due to technology within the next decade or two.
What are the ‘High-Risk’ Sectors?
The major sectors included in the study are :
1) Automotive and auto parts
2) Electrical and electronic parts
3) Business process outsourcing
4) Textile, clothing and footwear
Source: ASEAN in transformation: The future of jobs at risk of automation, International Labour Organization (Jul 2016)
In Singapore : Technology Disrupting Retail & Finance Sectors
In sunny Singapore, examples of technological innovation going into sectors such as Retail & Finance are aplenty. In particular, Food & Beverage and Retail sectors, which have been facing a dearth of manpower, have sought technological innovations to resolve their manpower woes. Rong Heng Seafood Restaurant, a new restaurant at East Coast Park, had bought 3 waiter robots to assist in the daily operations of the restaurant.
Source: Shin Min Daily News
IBM's Watson, the supercomputer that won American gameshow Jeopardy in 2011, has also taken on a new job as Development Bank of Singapore (DBS)'s wealth management expert.
Watson will analzye thousands of research reports, product information and customer profiles, and come up with suggestions on various financial options for DBS's high net worth customers.
Rong Heng Seafood Restaurant
Drivers of Automation: Costs, Productivity
Research increasingly shows that these disruptive technologies – predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, additive printing, the Internet of Things, nanotechnology, automation and robotics – are not only becoming better, but are also being combined. Decreases in their costs and increases in their accessibility promise future prosperity and the creation of new jobs. Simultaneously, these technologies challenge existing configurations of the workplace, forcing dramatic changes at alarming speeds
In the example of IBM's Watson, the supercomputer can analyze thousands of research reports in tandem with the product information and customer profiles to provide suggestions, which is multiple fold of what a wealth management expert can handle.
For others, the costs of automation is well rewarded in doing away with costs relating to employment of human labor:
Said Mr Zhang: "No matter how you aggravate it, the robot will not get angry.
"Disputes can sometimes arise between waiters and customers. Robots do not need pay rises, bonuses or welfare. They can work 24/7, do not need to take annual or sick leave and will not quit.
"With Chinese New Year coming, they will also not have any issue with doing overtime."
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/singapore-restaurant-hires-robot-waiters#sthash.UrjsmOX5.dpuf
"Disputes can sometimes arise between waiters and customers. Robots do not need pay rises, bonuses or welfare. They can work 24/7, do not need to take annual or sick leave and will not quit. No matter how you aggravate it, the robot will not get angry,” says Mr. Zhang, owner of Rong Heng Seafood Restaurant.
Consequentially, the key drivers towards automation, according to its propopents, lies in the quest for enhanced productivity, increased quality of goods, cost optimization and better working conditions. As the costs of technology rapidly falls, the balance is tilted increasingly in favor of automation, and more commercial applications are likely to follow. An apt example would be the partnership between Softbank and MasterCard, for Pepper the robot to work as a cashier in select Pizzahut locations in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the year, which utilizes the new MasterCard Wallet to pay for the food purchases.
“ Technological changes are welcomed because it replaces mundane tasks and enable the organization to upskill its workforce for higher value-add contributions.”
- Kelly Sofian, Senior Director of Quality and Human Resources,
Silicon Manufacturing Company1
Should We View Technology with Fear?
The same study stipulated that the greater vulnerability for developing economies appears to be a consequence of having relatively more jobs that are less skilled and thus easily automatable - In this respect, rather than to view technology as a threat to livlihoods, it is perhaps astute to think of technology as an enabler to free up human labor from repetitive, easily automatable work and direct human labor towards more value-added, higher skilled endeavors.
In the face of rapidly changing workplace technology, it is therefore crucial to cultivate relevant skillsets and prepare for new ways of work in the changing economy as a response to automation, rather than to fear or reject it as a whole.
Are you worried about your job security due to increasing automation?
1 Statement at ILO Experts Roundtable Consultation Meeting on Technology Transforming People and Jobs in ASEAN, Singapore, 18 Nov 2015 Source: ASEAN in transformation: The future of jobs at risk of automation, International Labour Organization (Jul 2016)
ASEAN in transformation: The future of jobs at risk of automation, International Labour Organization (Jul 2016)