9 May 2017
Accelerating automisation and increasing lifespans are creating disruptions to existing economic and education models. How can governments and industry address the resulting upheavals?
In a 2015 study by management consultancy Deloitte, technology was found to have profoundly changed the type of work humans performed. Between 1871 to 2011 in England and Wales, the percentage of the workforce employed in agriculture plummeted from 6.6 percent to 0.2 percent. On the other hand, those hired in jobs that involved “nursing and care of others” went from 1.1 percent of the workforce to nearly a quarter.
The report also pointed out that technology and the accelerating pace of change, while boosting employment in knowledge-intensive white-collar industries, creates disruption and tremendous stress in the job market.
“What is it that makes us different from robots?” asks Wong Su-Yen, Chief Executive Officer of the Human Capital Leadership Institute in Singapore. “We know they can out-calculate us, but there are things that make us uniquely human, and that’s where future jobs lie.
“Jobs have transitioned from muscle jobs, if we can call it that, to brain jobs. But we have a lot to solve with regard to caring or ‘heart’ jobs. That, perhaps, is the transition we need to think about in terms of where future jobs are going to come from.”
Wong made those comments at a recent panel discussion “Disruption: The New Norm” for Singapore-based station Channel NewsAsia’s Perspectives programme where she was joined by Arnoud De Meyer, President of Singapore Management University; Pranav Seth, Head of E-Business, Business Transformation and Fintech and Innovation Group, OCBC Bank; and Brajesh Panth of the Asian Development Bank.
While technological advancements are the obvious sources of change, Panth points out the many effects that have prompted the argument that disruption is, indeed, the new norm in the 21st century.
“Technological changes, demographic changes, urbanisation – so how do we cope with that?” he asks. “I think we need to look from that perspective. Now you have clients without borders, employers without space, so the whole notion of a job itself is changing.
“But if you look at the education system, how much has it changed? Although there are a lot of things happening, you know you have technology, you have different modalities of educating people, but [the education system] has more or less remained the same. So I think if we really are looking for disruption, it has to change.”