ASEAN re­forms urged to deal with automation threat to la­bor

The Myanmar Times - - Business -

THE World Eco­nomic Forum (WEF) said on Mon­day that the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) must in­tro­duce re­forms ahead of greater automation and dig­i­tal­iza­tion as­so­ci­ated with the so-called fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, which poses a threat to jobs and so­cial sta­bil­ity.

In a re­port with seven spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions for the re­gion, WEF’s ASEAN Re­gional Busi­ness Coun­cil (RBC) Chair­man Nazir Razak said that the mem­ber states should deal with the is­sue as a re­gion, not just in­di­vid­u­ally.

Mr. Nazir, cit­ing In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­ga­ni­za­tion data, said that 56% of jobs in the re­gion are at high risk of automation de­spite an ex­pan­sion­ary out­look for the work force in the re­gion, which is ex­pected to in­crease by 11,000 new work­ers daily over the next 15 years.

“The first [thing to do] is to turn the sec­re­tar­iat into a plat­form or­ga­ni­za­tion. The sec­re­tar­iat would gov­ern the plat­form for re­gional in­te­gra­tion, but third par­ties would do the job of de­vel­op­ing poli­cies and reg­u­la­tion,” he added.

Mr. Nazir, chair­man of Malaysia’s CIMB Group, said such a re­or­ga­nized sec­re­tar­iat would har­ness more re­sources from a wider pool and take ad­vise from third par­ties with deep ex­per­tise in ar­eas need­ing re­form.

An­other rec­om­men­da­tion is to in­crease the fund­ing for the ASEAN sec­re­tary gen­eral to $220 mil­lion from the cur­rent $2 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

“Our re­port rec­om­mends a fund­ing model based on the size of the GDP (Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct) of the economies with the big economies pay­ing more than the smaller economies like what we have at the United Na­tions,” Mr. Nazir said.

The re­port, pub­lished in part­ner­ship with the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB), at­tempts to eval­u­ate how the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion im­pacts the ASEAN re­gion. WEF’s ASEAN RBC, launched last year, has 25 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from ASEAN busi­nesses and 30 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from global com­pa­nies, who ad­vise the WEF on is­sue re­lated to the re­gion.

ADB Vice-Pres­i­dent for op­er­a­tions in East Asia, South­east Asia and the Pa­cific Stephen P. Groff said that while the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove qual­ity of life, it can also bring chal­lenges such as the risk of low-cost la­bor be­ing phased out in fa­vor of automation.

These dis­rup­tions, Mr. Nazir said, may breed dis­con­tent and in­sta­bil­ity.

“With pru­dent fis­cal man­age­ment and ap­pro­pri­ate pol­icy, op­por­tu­ni­ties for life­long learn­ing and in­cen­tives for skills train­ing can be cre­ated and we can in­deed en­sure the ben­e­fits can be re­al­ized by all seg­ments in so­ci­ety,” Mr. Groff said.

“[M]y re­quest to ASEAN lead­ers is that we set up a work­ing group to take this for­ward. Its goal will be to re­flect deeply on the im­pact of the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion on our re­gion and more im­por­tantly to ex­am­ine the modus operandi of our ASEAN in­sti­tu­tions to cope,” he added.

“If we do not act, ASEAN will suf­fer in the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion but if we take proper steps then we will not only sur­vive, but I be­lieve we can thrive.”

Photo: EPA

Lead­ers pose dur­ing the fam­ily photo ses­sion at the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing in Da Nang, Viet­nam, Novem­ber 11. (Front L-R) China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Viet­nam’s Pres­i­dent Tran Dai Quang, In­done­sia’s Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo, Ja­pan’s Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, (back L-R) Philip­pines’ Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump, Thai­land’s Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha.

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