Key PH sectors ready for automation

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The Philippines’ two biggest dollar-earning export sectors have made inroads in trying to minimize the potential impact on jobs of the automation of goods and services production under a looming “fourth industrial revolution” (4IR), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday.

Citing the results of its study titled “Reaping the Benefits of Industry 4.0 Through Skills Development in High-Growth Industries in Southeast Asia: Insights from Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam” published this month, the ADB said in a statement that the electronics and the information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry players were “showing good progress in implementing 4IR preparedness, with at least half of the employers surveyed having adopted 4IR technologies into their operations.”

Electronics accounted for the bulk of the Philippines’ merchandise exports while the IT-BPO sector is the country’s biggest services export sector.

The imminent transition to 4IR would not be all doom and gloom—the ADB said 63 percent of IT-BPO firms in the country expected adoption of 4IR technologies to boost their productivity by more than 25 percent by 2025.

Among electronics assemblers here, 55 percent see productivity gains from 4IR adoption during the same period.

However, the ADB study showed that about a fourth of jobs in these two industries would likely be shed by automation, even as these job losses “would be more than offset by new jobs resulting from a net increase in labor demand in both sectors.”

More male employees stood to lose their jobs to machines in the IT-BPO sector, while more female workers would be displaced in electronics manufacturers by 4IR technologies, the ADB study showed.

“To support those at higher risk of job displacement, we must look at new approaches to strengthen inclusion and social protection in the context of 4IR to ensure that no one is left behind in the new economy,” ADB Philippines country director Kelly Bird said.

To mitigate the 4IR’s impact on employment, the ADB urged the Philippines to develop dedicated 4IR technical and vocational education and training programs, adding that flexible and modular skills certification programs that recognize skills attainment outside traditional education channels were also important.

“Against a backdrop of rapidly evolving technology, the study also recommends speeding up the pace at which the country’s education system can incorporate curriculum changes to meet industry needs,” the ADB added, citing that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating digital transformation such that companies deploying 4IR technologies were likely to recover faster from the disruptions caused by the pandemic and be more resilient in the future.


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