Jul 18, 2016 | By Tess

The fears of robots replacing humans in the workplace and taking their jobs has been ongoing since the dawn of automated industrial technologies. Now, it seems those fears are may be coming to fruition in South East Asia, where significant textile, automotive, and disk drive manufacturing is done for large companies. According to a report released by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), more than half of workers in South East Asia may be at risk of losing their jobs within the next two decades primarily because of the rise of 3D printing technologies, wearable technologies, nanotechnologies, and robotic automation.

The study, called ASEAN in Transformation: How Technology is Changing Jobs and Enterprises, has found that around 56% of salaried workers in South East Asia are at high-risk of losing their jobs in the near future. This 56% comprises of about 137 million workers, amongst which those working in the garments industry are the most vulnerable. The garments industry, which includes textiles, clothing, and footwear, employs about 9 million people across South East Asia, of whom the majority are young women.

As we know, technologies such as 3D body scanning, CAD, and 3D printing have opened up new doors within garment manufacturing, allowing for custom-fitted and made-to-order pieces. These technologies have also allowed for increasingly quick production times and more localized manufacturing. Within the footwear industry, for instance, there are already signs that mass production factories are becoming decreasingly important. As the study reads, “The footwear industry has begun using 3D printing techniques to open automated shoe factories in key destination markets. If these operations prove profitable, such automated shoe factories will no doubt reduce the need for ASEAN workers.”

According to the ILO, 64% of garment industry workers in Indonesia are at a high risk of losing their jobs to automated technologies, while an astounding 86% and 88% percent are at high rish in Vietnam and Cambodia, respectively.

Deborah France-Massin, director of the ILO's bureau for employers' activities, explained, "Countries that compete on low-wage labour need to reposition themselves. 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.” These measures include training existing labour forces to work with the new technologies effectively through the development of technical and programming skills.

Within the automotive manufacturing industry, more than 60% of workers in Indonesia and over 70% of those in Thailand could also lose their jobs within the next two decades. In 2015, South East Asian countries were collectively the seventh largest producer of vehicles, and the industry has employed more than 800,000 workers. According to the study, however, the automotive industry has the potential to be one of the most receptive to changes brought about by automation technologies.

The study also addressed the Electrical and Electronics industry, the Business process outsourcing sector, and the retail industry. Of the three, the Electrical and Electronics manufacturing industry was the most at risk of automation-caused redundancies. The sector, which employs 2.5 million people across ASEAN, will primarily be disrupted by robotic automation, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Unlike in the garments industry, which is dominated by low-skill labour intensive processes, the automation within the electronics sector is expected to be more “human centric”, meaning that robots will likely be brought in to help workers rather than replace them.

The ILO study was based off of findings from over 330 interviews, 4,000 enterprise surveys, 2,700 student surveys across ASEAN, and extensive secondary research. Ultimately, it concludes that in the face of automation, industries and policy makers alike must adjust to the eventual changes in socially and economically sustainable ways.

Additionally, though the numbers of jobs at risk seems grim, the emergence of new technologies has itself created new markets, new jobs, and even new sectors. As Tim Forsyth, a professor of development at the London School of Economics says, “Perhaps the longer-term transitions could, arguably, be indicated by experiences elsewhere. For example, in Europe or North America in the 1960s, people worked in factories. Now, fewer people work in factories but many still work there, while service industries have grown and people discovered other ways to generate incomes.”



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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kb wrote at 7/29/2016 1:39:38 AM:

Like in Europe, they're going to create an ecosystem of highly paid unproductive jobs who feeds itself with useless tasks and occupies people 35 hours a week!

Jack wrote at 7/23/2016 2:21:19 AM:

Yes that day is coming

Rrim Geeper wrote at 7/18/2016 7:01:53 PM:

Going to be mass starvation as populations readjust to less people required... PERIOD.

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