Mil­lions of SE Asian jobs

‘MAY BE LOST TO AU­TO­MA­TION’

Cambodian Business Review - - Cambodia Labor -

M ore than half of work­ers in five South­east Asian coun­tries – in­clud­ing Cam­bo­dia - are at high risk of los­ing their jobs to au­to­ma­tion in the next two decades, an In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion study found, with those in the gar­ments in­dus­try par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble.

About 137 mil­lion work­ers or 56 per­cent of the salaried work­force from Cam­bo­dia, In­done­sia, the Philip­pines, Thai­land and Viet­nam, fall un­der the high- risk cat­e­gory, the study showed.

The gar­ment sec­tor is Cam­bo­dia’s big­gest in­dus­try – ex­port­ing more than $8 bil­lion a year and em­ploy­ing more than 700,000 peo­ple. The re­port said al­most 90 per­cent of Cam­bo­dia’s gar­ment work­ers could lose their jobs.

"Coun­tries that com­pete on low-wage la­bor need to re­po­si­tion them­selves. Price ad­van­tage is no longer enough," said Deb­o­rah France-Massin, di­rec­tor for the ILO's bureau for em­ploy­ers' ac­tiv­i­ties. The re­port said work­ers have to be trained to work ef­fec­tively along­side dig­i­talised ma­chines.

South­east Asia is home to more than 630 mil­lion peo­ple and is a hub for sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors, in­clud­ing tex­tiles, ve­hi­cles and hard disk drives.

Of the 9 mil­lion peo­ple work­ing in the re­gion's tex­tiles, cloth­ing and footwear in­dus­try, 88 per­cent risk los­ing their jobs in Cam­bo­dia, 64 per­cent in In­done­sia and 86 per­cent in Viet­nam.

Gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers in Cam­bo­dia take or­ders from re­tail­ers such as Adi­das, Marks and Spencer and Wal-Mart Stores.

Neigh­bor­ing Viet­nam is see­ing record in­vest­ment in its footwear and tex­tiles in­dus­tries, due to new free-trade pacts with ma­jor mar­kets, in­clud­ing the US-led Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. It is the sec­ond­largest gar­ment sup­plier be­hind China to the United States.

The United Na­tions agency said tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing 3D print­ing, wear­able tech­nol­ogy, nan­otech­nol­ogy and ro­botic au­to­ma­tion could dis­rupt the sec­tor.

"Ro­bots are be­com­ing bet­ter at assem­bly, cheaper and in­creas­ingly able to col­lab­o­rate with peo­ple," the ILO said.

The tex­tiles, cloth­ing and footwear

sec­tor is at the high­est risk of au­to­ma­tion out of five in­dus­tries an­a­lysed in the study, in­clud­ing au­to­mo­tive and auto parts, elec­tri­cal and elec­tron­ics, busi­ness process out­sourc­ing and re­tail.

In the au­to­mo­tive and auto parts in­dus­try, more than 60 per­cent of salaried work­ers in In­done­sia, and over 70 per­cent of those in Thai­land face the risk of their jobs be­ing dis­placed.

South­east Asia's au­to­mo­tive sec­tor, the sev­enth-largest pro­ducer of ve­hi­cles in 2015 glob­ally, em­ploys more than 800,000 work­ers, the re­port said.

Known as the "Detroit of South­east Asia", Thai­land is a re­gional pro­duc­tion and ex­port hub for the world's top carmakers. The auto sec­tor ac­counts for around 10 per­cent of Thai GDP and em­ploys a 10th of its work­ers in man­u­fac­tur­ing.

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