ADB not worried about impact of technology on Myanmar jobs

Despite widespread automation of manual work functions, Myanmar jobs are not under “huge” threat by advancements in technology, economists at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) told the media during the organisation’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Manila on May 4.

However, the government needs to monitor the impact of changing technologies on local jobs. Meanwhile, it is also important for the younger generation to be aware of evolving job trends in the labour market to avoid becoming irrelevant in the labour market.

ADB chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada was optimistic about the labour market in Myanmar.

“Myanmar’s economy is growing fast and that is a good point. The labour market will absorb more workers as the economy grows,” Mr Sawada told The Myanmar Times in Manila.

“About 100 million workers are losing their jobs every year due to the automation. Workplace conditions are changing because of automation. However, these workers are also getting new jobs.” said Mr Sawada.

Manual and routine jobs in manufacturing assembly lines are most vulnerable to automation, he said.

As such, educating and training the workforce as well as ensuring favourable labour regulations, social protection and tax policies is important. “The government has an important role to play in encouraging inclusive growth as technology advances,” he said.

Mr Sawada recommended vocational training, on-job training, re-training and upgrading the skills of workers so that they become adaptable to the requirements of new and emerging jobs in the economy.

During his opening address at the AGM, ADB President Mr.Takehiko Nakao said new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and “internet of things are emerging faster than people can imagine.”

If harnessed properly, the technologies have “huge potential to raise productivity and improve our daily lives. In Asia, young entrepreneurs and home-grown innovations are becoming an increasingly important part of the economy,” said the president.

In fact, there are several reasons to be optimistic despite fears of job losses to technology, said Mr Nakao.

“First, a job comprises many kinds of tasks. New technologies often can automate only some of those tasks, not the whole job,” he said.

He added that job automation takes place only where it is both technically and economically feasible. “Even if automatic sewing machines can produce T-shirts, if they require a huge capital investment, they cannot compete with human workers who are paid reasonably,” he said.

Meanwhile, rising incomes may substantially increase demand for products, which could more than offset job losses caused by new technologies, Mr Nakao said.

In fact, “new technologies create new occupations and industries. In the early 20th century, auto mechanics and car dealers emerged alongside the car industry. Today, we are seeing many new types of high-skilled jobs in information and communications technology (ICT), health care, education, and all kinds of business and consumer services,” said the ADB president.

Nevertheless, new technologies can alter the skills required for certain jobs and cause unemployment. “Advances in technology may make the less-skilled more likely to experience lower wages, thereby widening income inequality,” Mr Nakao warned.

“This will require proactive and comprehensive actions by the government on skills development, labour regulation, social protection, and income redistribution. Governments must promote ICT infrastructure, protect personal data and privacy, and ensure fair competition,” said Mr Nakao.

Source: Myanmar Times

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