/ Digitalization

Digitization and the Asian Workforce

The digital transformation, automation as well as artificial intelligence represent great opportunities for Asia.


How to survive the aftermath?

Firms which are in this region are making use of technologies like these to enhance efficiency, productivity as well as analytics-enhanced decision making. This offers emerging economies opportunities to leapfrog developed market in the economic development process.

A new beginning of a new Asian Workforce

Several countries have entrenched entrepreneurial cultures and in this regard, China and India are the global economic powerhouses. Some have undertaken a significant improved approach for their economic models: One of which is the demonetization in India. The growth of the middle class in many of these countries will give rise to larger spending on the consumer goods, and their connectivity would bring digital skills in more individuals.

But are there any downsides to digital transformation?

Along with the benefit which is derived in this region, there is some threat of erosion in its decades-long competitive advantage: efficient labor-intensive manufacturing.

Manufacturing is also moving from the east back to the west in some instances from China, Bangladesh and India to some countries such as Germany where robots are utilized so as to perform tasks faster, better and more cost-effectively than human beings. There are some economics which would fare better than others. What may serve as a loss in an emerging market may simply be a gain to an advanced economy like Japan.


This guy may speak robot in the future.

Can it really understand your orders?

But even though other regions need to compete for market share, Asia’s manufacturing sectors have the potential to thrive as digital transformation grows their global competitiveness. As this report from the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development stress, emerging economies have an imperative to refocus and also redesign their education policies so as to take advantage of the digital revolution, which would help to protect their economics.

There is also the issue of automation and robotics that replaces manufacturing jobs and increases the need for workers to up-skill.

Based on previous records, automation will replace between 9% of jobs globally (according to an OECD report) and 47% of jobs in the United State of America (predicted by an Oxford University paper). In the Southeast Asia, we have seen predictions that more than 50% of jobs in the manufacturing sector could go a long way of automation and robots, according to the report which was provided in 2016 by the International Labor Organization.

These issues are not faced by one region or country alone, globally; a report from McKinsey cited that in a piece from the World Economic Forum, the percentage of occupation that would be fully automated is less than 5%. However, the authors conclude that 60% of all jobs will likely have a minimum of 30% where tasks could be handled by some kind of automation.

We are currently at an infectious point

A place where our collective decision on training and re-skilling will affect our future well-being as well as prosperity.

Digitization would create or redefine as many jobs as it will replace. Even if there is no certainty about new roles which may arise. Jobs which require creative and digital skills like artists, strategists, coders, UX designers and scientist are a good bet. Unskilled manufacturing roles are the most likely candidates for automation.

Two men in a steelworks with a crane moving the material over their heads
The new playground.

A recent article in The Guardian which was published 20 years into the future cited the “safest” job as therapists, dieticians as well as physicians along with the “least safe” roles which include loan officers, telemarketers, cashiers and taxi driver. This kind of list makes sense in the context of a society in general but the impact of digital transformation sweeping through the economies is not specified.

Everybody is a stakeholder in this conversation

The redefining and replacement of the traditional job roles is not a new thing

This is because it has been a common occurrence since the dawn of innovation; certainly with more of an impact since the industrial revolution. But the rate of change nowadays is unprecedented. Across Asia, as technology revolution expands, digital innovation such as robots will replace work categories such as factory labor, warehousing, production teams and manufacturing.

The effect of digital transformation on workers and talent is profound in its implications, and this is not limited to a single set of stakeholders. This would affect families and individuals that need to ensure gainful employment. It would affect corporations which need to ensure a steady supply of digitally-skilled employees so as to strengthen their workforce. And this would affect governments as well as collective society as a whole which needs to ensure a productive economic output in the digital future (for the first time in some Asian economies).

The benefit of public-private partnership

If machines will take over the manufacturing, where does that leave the citizens of Asia working in this sector? What new skill will be needed by the employees? Can we enhance our abilities with the aid of technology? How can we learn to adapt?

The key is a digital reinvention on a macro (societal) and micro (individual) scale. From a human resources perspective, this is the meaning of digital transformation-the metamorphosis of our collective skills towards technology education and vocation at scale across the Asia Pacific region.


It takes a big effort from a lot of people.

They don’t always look obvious.

One option is to accelerate public and private partnerships so as to educate, train and also retrain the workforce with digital skills. This kind of partnerships will protect both the employees as well as the organizations. Our education and school systems are already gaining momentum towards this direction and would also need to centralize and embrace digital technologies and skills so that students can take active role in tomorrow’s workforce.

This will serve as a considerable challenge in Asia, but one will need to overcome it. A recent report from the Workforce Analytics Institute (WAI) found that while skilled labor is in high demand across the region, the labor-supply challenges varies from one country to another.

The share of the population educated above a secondary level in some countries remain as low as 8%. Even in advanced economies such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore face issues around skills shortage and an aging working population.


Filling up Education

Governments in Asia can make a difference. For instance, in Singapore the government is taking steps to boost technical skills through grants, policies as well as new infrastructure. We likewise see efforts in Indonesia as the country seeks to reform the skills landscape through training, education system reinvention as well as a series of public and private partnerships.

What do you think? What do you think is the Asian transformation of jobs through Digitalization?

Digitization and the Asian Workforce
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