Malaysians employed in sales and service sectors are largely at risk of losing their jobs to automation, as found in a report published by Khazanah Research Institute.
The report that’s titled Work In An Evolving Malaysia: The State of Households 2020 Part II, said that workers in these categories form the largest majority of Malaysia’s labour pool, recording 22.6 per cent of our country’s total employment just last year.
However, the study also found that “jobs such as health & teaching professionals are less likely to be replaced by technology”. Skilled occupations still face the risk of being displaced by automation but this is more likely to occur to those with semi-skilled occupations. “These jobs also tend to have lower teleworking capabilities, i.e., workers cannot simply work from home when physical distancing requirements are enforced,” added the report.
If movement restrictions are continually enforced by the government to combat the virus, Malaysia may risk seeing the permanent loss of non-teleworkable semi-skilled jobs altogether.
Nonetheless, the report says that a move to automation will not take place immediately as businesses were still unprepared for this transition. “Industrial robots are still more concentrated in high-technology manufacturing activities, and even among firms in the sector, investments in machinery are still limited”.
While there are many downsides to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also believed that the current state of the world has presented an opportunity for policymakers to prepare firms and make that step into the future of automation. “On the firms’ side, this crisis is clear evidence on why digitalisation and automation matters, further supported by various government incentives provided for firms to digitalise and automate,” said the report.
But if firms are going to make this transition, they need to invest in improving their workers’ skills to prepare them to operate new technologies. The report added that it was essential for workers to complement advancements in technology instead of being replaced by them.
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