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Robots VS. Jobs: Creating or Destroying?

The continuous rise of robot implementation in Malaysia has opened various new job opportunities, replacing existing jobs with higher-value jobs. As a matter of fact, new types of jobs such as robot operators, programmers, and robot engineers for monitoring and supervision have emerged, which are pivotal in ensuring the continuous implementation and maintenance of robots in the country.

The emergence of new jobs and opportunities enables local talents to develop new skillsets in technology, engineering, and robotics while allowing companies to focus on skills and knowledge that are more complexed and globally valued through reskilling and training programmes to guide the existing workforce in transitioning towards the familiarisation of Industry 4.0 technologies.

To progress, robots should not be looked as a tool that is a hindrance towards employment but rather, as a tool designed to enrich businesses and talents so that they can become part of a higher value economy in the global market.

Picture source: www.nw-cars.com

A report released by Asian Development Bank (ADB) suggests that new technologies often automate only some tasks of a job but not the entire process. For example, the deployment of automated teller machines (ATMs) has not replaced bank tellers but in fact, broadened their role in customer relationship management.

The adoption of robotics and other connected systems lead to higher productivity and economic growth, leading to the creation of 134 million new jobs – compared with the 101 million lost to new technologies.

One of the implementors’ return of investment (ROI) is seen through the productivity metric as a broad measure of technological advance. Using this as a measurement in ADB’s input/output analysis of 12 economies in Asia (Malaysia included) found that, had output remained the same, technology-driven increased productivity would have brought a 66 percent decrease in employment, equal to 101 million jobs per annum.

However, the continuous rise in demand for goods and services forced an increased output from manufacturers, and technology changes more than offset this – with an associated 88% increase in employment, equivalent to 134 million jobs per annum.

Picture source: smart.electronicsforu.com

“New types of jobs have emerged to handle new technologies. A detailed analysis of occupation titles in India, Malaysia, and the Philippines found that 43–57 percent of new job titles that have emerged in the past 10 years are in ICT”, stated the report.

“Over the past 25 years (up to 2018), the (Asian) region has created 30 million jobs annually in industry and services. Job creation has come with improved productivity, rising earnings for workers, and large reductions in poverty.”, explained the report.

The same effect can also be seen in the European region – Deloitte released a study of manufacturers in the United Kingdom stating that while 800,000 low-skilled jobs were eliminated due to the rise of robots, 3.5 million jobs were created – which is more than an offset.

The International Federation of Robotics’ (IFR) study found that the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector will seek to benefit as well from the capabilities of robot-based technologies.

According to the report, “It is a picture in which small-to-medium-sized companies (SMEs), which account for over 90% of businesses in most economies, are better able to compete, and to assume new roles in global supply chains.”.

The disruption caused by this paradigm shift is inevitable. Certain repetitive, mundane, low-skilled jobs will be lost but instead of it being considered “lost”, it is actually an avenue for workers to expand their knowledge into jobs and tasks that require a more complicated skillset.

It may sound daunting to some, but which a little bit of reskilling and retraining, these new skillsets can be instilled into the existing workforce, enabling them to participate and work alongside these robots.

Various human capital developments have been designed to complement the rise of robots, enhancing the transition of workers. The Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) has been working closely with the Government, industry stakeholders and businesses in developing reskilling and retraining programmes for the benefit of all.

Few examples include MARii’s Industry Professional Certificate and Automotive Industry Certification Engineering (AICE) and the Industry-led Professional Certificate (IPC) programme which is continuously updated to include modules and topics related to Industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The government agency, together with Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn. Bhd. (Perodua), Perodua Suppliers Association (P2SA), and Perodua Dealers Association (PDA) have also collaborated in creating new employment opportunities related to future industries, including digitalisation, data-driven operations, smart manufacturing, and robotics for local talents as well as re-skilling initiatives in efforts to increase the employment rate in Malaysia affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While robotics and other technologies are continuously becoming a vital tool in economic, business, and societal growth, it will always remain a fact that human-specific skills still reign supreme.

Robots are not only diversifying the way we work but it is also changing the value we place on the skills of employees. As reiterated previously, various parties are developing programs to provide more training and education to create an Industry 4.0-compliant workforce and one of the main driving forces behind this transition is the implementation of robots.

Never forget that robots themselves require maintenance, development of software, hardware, and codes to make them work, which can only be done by humans. Some robots also require operators and technicians to ensure continuous functionality, which is again conducted by us, humans

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