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COVID-19 hastens automation, new APEC report finds

COVID-19 hastens automation, new APEC report finds

The
COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the adoption of automation by firms and
organisations across the region, according to a new policy brief by the APEC
Policy Support Unit and The Asia Foundation titled “COVID-19, 4IR and the
future of work.”

Constraints
to labour supply caused by movement restrictions, both domestically and
globally, as well as the withdrawal of workers, who are elderly or have
pre-existing conditions, are some of the push factors for firms to explore or
even deploy automation in their operations.

A
variety of stimulus and relief measures launched by governments to cushion the
pandemic, such as lower interest rates and subsidies for going digital, may
also provide incentives for more firms to automate business processes, APEC
Policy Support Unit said in a statement here, today.

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 APEC policymakers 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.

“It
is impossible for us to talk about growth when people are struggling to secure
their livelihoods,” Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, executive director of
the APEC Secretariat commented.

“We
have been mandated by ministers to prioritise the return of workers to
employment. Our responsibility is to ensure that we support people at risk with
greater inclusive policy instruments,” she said.

Policymakers
are advised to strengthen and expand social protection policies to protect
workers and provide income security. APEC will also need to collaborate closely
with the private sector to monitor automation trends and support the need for
workforce upskilling and retraining.

Malaysia
is the host for APEC this year. This is the second time Malaysia is hosting
APEC since 1998. The APEC Economic Leaders Meeting is scheduled in November but
from now all meetings are conducted virtually due to travel restrictions amid
the pandemic.

APEC
is an inter-governmental forum comprising 21 economies that promote free trade
throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The APEC region is an economic juggernaut,
nearly tripling the size of its economy since the forum’s launch in 1989.

The
economies make up 40 per cent of the world’s population, 60 per cent of its
gross domestic product and 50 per cent of the total trade, according to the
meeting organisers.

Source: Bernama

Posted on : 26 June 2020
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