3 Jul 2020

Covid-19 drives automation in new industrial revolution - report

8:39 am on 3 July 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a new industrial revolution, with technology automating - and eliminating - certain jobs, a new report suggests.

robot in medical concept, robot (artificial intelligence)hold the medical syringe in the operating room  for prepare to surgery the patient for faster recovery time, less cosmetic damage and low costs

A robot holds a syringe in the operating room. (File photo). Photo: 123rf

The report by the APEC Policy Support Unit and the Asia Foundation said social distancing measures, combined with cheaper technology would encourage firms to consider automating.

Analyst Emmanuel San Andres said any job with repetitive or routine processes could be fully, or partly automated.

"Just because they are amenable to be translated into algorithms ... examples are office functions such as accounting or HR, or transcription and drafting of documents. We're seeing more and more instances where simple contracts are being done by robots.

"AI [artificial intelligence] is also making headway into customer-facing jobs like when you call in for customer support, you are probably talking to a robot."

San Andres said to cushion the Covid-19 pandemic government subsidies for automation and low interest rates would further encourage firms to take a look at implementing it.

"A lot of the work that is not likely to be automated is at either end of the wage distribution, so say high-end engineering, research, design, management of firms and at the very low end like delivery workers, janitors, labourers ... but everything in the middle like office and clerical work could be automated."

He said while automation had been happening for many years, particularly in the manufacturing and agriculture sector, it had started to move into areas previously thought of as immune to such digitisation.

He said policymakers had a delicate task ahead and would not want to stand in the way of innovation and development, but also had to make sure the people left behind had options.

"The unintended impact of this scenario would be the risk of certain jobs being eliminated, which would contribute to creating further spikes in unemployment rates around the region."

The report calls on governments to conduct a thorough risk assessment of jobs that may be impacted or eliminated by automation to understand the challenges faced by workers and the unforeseen impacts of crisis-response policies.

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