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Disruptive Technology and Automation is Not Killing Jobs

November 30, 2017

Current trend of the anticipated arrival of artificial intelligence automation, often called as Industry 4.0, has led to fears off mass job losses and worsening income disparity across the globe. However, to optimistic industry and tech players, such fears might be exaggerated.

In a forum discussing the future of work held in Malaysia, the panelists said that robotics and automation might not necessarily be a zero-sum game. Despite the fact that traditional jobs that involve calculations, clerical, and data processing might be hit the hardest by software and computers, the same technological progress that cause such disruptions will also lead to creation of new professional fields and job roles.

Among the new occupations is data analyst, with the growing demand for talents who can analyse and communicate complex information to customers as big data has become an integral aspect the new economy, said Tunku Alizakri Raja Muhammad Ali, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Strategy) of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Board.

Speaking at the Future of Work, Workplace, Workforce conference, he said that disruptive technology is not about losing jobs, but it will be more about how jobs will get done. Humans are still needed for decision-making on issues that involve morality or ethics, because even though AI might have all the data and information, it could be too much and confusing. Therefore, it should be humans to communicate that information, Mr Ali added.

See: Indian Firms Invest More in Employee Benefits: Study

He said that EPF has implemented the theory that technology might not always come as a threat, by providing training courses for front desk staffs to become consultants or advisors. After installing machines to make clerical work such as applications, account statement issuance, and approvals faster, former front desk staff were trained to analyse personal data to provide financial management consultancy for account holders.

Earlier, TalentCorp, the conference’s chief organiser, said in its Visioning Malaysia’s Future of Work: A Framework for Action report noted that almost 43 percent of jobs in Malaysia will be at the risk of automation, The Malay Online reports.

Meanwhile, The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs pointed out that the financial services will be the most hurt by disruptive technology in the immediate future. According to the survey, up to 43 percent workers in the sector might lose their jobs in the next three years. Such findings emphasise urgent needs to conduct retraining to counter the effect of automation. Government intervention is also needed to facilitate the transition between retrenchments to new employment, WEF noted.

However, the main problem lies in the fact that retraining could be costly. In Malaysia itself, critics say government’s retraining and upskilling initiatives have failed to help low-skilled retrenched workers to get reemployment, mostly because the courses teach participants skills for positions which are often already filled up. Therefore, teaching new skills through updated programmes to meet specific demands could solve the problem.

Read also: Talents with Specific Skillsets in Demand despite Minimal Salary Raises Next Year

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