Confronting New Innovations
McKinsey Digital released a finding in 2016 based on the labour force of 46 countries that a third of tasks involved in 60 percent of jobs could be automated with today’s technology. Labour that is routinized like packaging products to equipment maintenance is easily done by robots.
In fact, when a factory in Dongguan City replaced 90 percent of its human labour with machines, productivity increased 250 percent as a result. Recently, Amazon launched delivery drones that promised to provide a more rapid and safe delivery service in the United Kingdom. As for mining, I don’t see how the industry can maintain its current status for much longer given that natural gas is a cheaper, cleaner and a more viable alternative to coal for power generation.
The political upheaval in the United States caused by the decreasing number of jobs available in the mining and manufacturing industry might soon be something Indonesians face. These jobs are disappearing and are never coming back – no matter how hard anyone kicks and screams.
I am scared that my skills will soon be futile, but not as much as I am afraid to be confronted with others’ frustrations when their jobs are no longer available. We’ve all witnessed how some Bluebird and ojek drivers violently responded to having their income threatened by new competition from technology-based transportation services such as Uber and GO-JEK.
I think having too many Indonesians working in unskilled areas would not only be harmful to the economy, but could possibly create problems around the country. Being the fourth-most populated country in the world, we face wide income inequalities and I don’t think that will help us down the line.
Canada and Finland have started pilot studies for universal basic income (UBI) as their way to deal with the poor. Although handouts are often frowned upon and risky due to the high levels of corruption in Indonesia, this could be a way to help mitigate the effects of tech innovation on human labour. Or maybe the government could even impose taxes on the production and use of robots as they do to workers. If not, perhaps lessening the skills gap should become a priority by encouraging more studies on the creative arts as they are more difficult to automate. There is immense creativity fueled by rich traditions and cultures that should be cultivated, as well as profited from, in the form of clothing, food, art or performances.
The World Bank has found that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) employ 89 percent of the private sector’s workforce and contribute more than half to the country’s GDP, but stumble upon challenges when securing funding or loans. Ironically, technology may be the solution to this particular issue.
All in all, and regardless of the direction our government decides to take on this matter, everyone should start getting used to change; be it in their lifestyle or in their work. Change, however big or small, is the only way for Indonesians to stay relevant.
“Being the fourth-most populated country in the world, we face wide income inequalities and I don’t think that will help us down the line.”
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