A new study by the ILO (International Labour Organization) Bureau for Employers’ Activities, ASEAN in transformation: How technology is changing jobs and enterprises, shows that more than half of workers in five Southeast Asian countries are at risk for losing their jobs to robots in the next 20 years.

The report 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.

It shows that low-skill workers will find themselves displaced in favour of automation, and more than 60% of salaried workers in Indonesia and over 70% of workers in Thailand face high automation risk, within the next two decades.

Labour-intensive sectors such as textiles, clothing and footwear, which provide more than 9 million jobs in ASEAN, the majority of whom are young women, are at risk. The lower skilled jobs are particularly vulnerable to disruptive technologies, like additive manufacturing and automation. This could reduce export growth as destination markets in Europe and the United States bring production back home. The subsequent social consequences could be particularly significant for some ASEAN economies such as Cambodia and Viet Nam.
Deborah France-Massin, Director for the ILO’s Bureau for Employers’ Activities said that the report warns that while mass scale job displacement is not imminent, the technology to replace mainly lower skilled jobs in ASEAN will increasingly be adopted as its cost declines and innovations become accessible to even small-sized enterprises. The report estimates that about 56% of all salaried employment in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, is at high risk of displacement due to technology in the next couple of decades.

“Countries that compete on low-wage labour need to reposition themselves,” France-Massin said. “Price advantage is no longer enough. Policymakers need to create a more conducive environment that leads to greater human capital investment, research and development, and high-value production.”

According to the report, the potential for growth and employment presented by advanced technologies, such as additive manufacturing, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), are considerable. More than 60% of enterprises surveyed see these technologies as a positive for increasing sales, labour productivity and employment of highly skilled workers.
The study suggests that the robot age is already a reality among ASEAN manufacturers who have been incrementally introducing robotic automation to improve productivity, quality, consistency, and workplace safety. Critically, widespread use of robots does not automatically lead to job replacement. Current trends reveal robots being deployed in a human-centric, collaborative way to raise the productivity of higher skilled workers, rather than replace them.

Source – Staffing Industry

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