If you think that the threat of robots taking over jobs is mere speculation by science fiction writers, think again: in 2016, a President Obama’s February economic report to Congress painted a rather gloomy scenario: about 62% of American jobs might be at risk of being taken over by robots, primarily the lowest-paid workers.
In another report, Moshe Vardi, a highly respected computer scientist from Rice University, suggested that by 2030, almost half of all jobs in the world would be taken over by robots. Well, Oxford University predicted an even closer date: that within the next 10 to 20 years, 50% of all jobs will be taken over by robots.
While this seems like bad news for everyone, it actually isn’t as bad as it sounds: when God shuts a door, He opens a window. Robots might have taken over jobs, but with its technology, it creates a wide array of jobs that did not exist ten years ago as well: the IT industry is blooming, app development becomes an industry and software writers are in demand.
In fact, a study showed that technology has created more jobs than it destroyed.
It’s easy to interpret a cup as half-empty when you’re pessimistic, but it’s also not difficult to see a cup as half-full when you’re optimistic. Essentially, it’s all about learning new skills to blend into this fast-changing world instead of pointing fingers at the robots.
In Singapore, the authorities have seen this coming: NTUC (the labour movement) has created a unit called Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST), in which through the help of their partners, it predicts the skills needed for future jobs by thorough analysing the data they’ve acquired.
The key thing that we need to know is this: stay relevant. The world is no longer like what it was thirty years ago when loyalty and relationships could keep you in a job forever: the world is now fast-changing, and if you refuse to stay upgraded, you’d have to stay out of the market.
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Here’re the ten jobs that might be taken over by robots—and if you’ve really understood what you’ve read earlier, you shouldn’t be worried even if your job is one of them. In fact, you should be looking at skill upgrading platforms like SkillsFuture instead!
You’ve expected this, haven’t you? As early as 2011, a US state, Nevada, passed a law to allow the driverless cars to be on public roads, and since then, various regions around the world have followed suit. Closer to home, in September this year, Singapore became the first country in the world to test driverless taxis, which is a collaboration between start-up nuTonomy and ride-hailing service Grab.
Whether you’re a taxi driver, a private hire car driver or a bus driver, this is unavoidable—your industry will be disrupted, and it’s about time to learn a new skill now.
The National Transport Workers Union (NTWU) is keeping a close watch on the development of driverless technology. Melvin Yong, Executive Secretary of NTWU, said that there will be new job opportunities for our transport workers with the advent of this technology. NTWU, together with its tripartite partners, will continue to help bus captains upskill and be updated on the latest technologies in this industry.
Here’s what some people in Singapore think about driverless buses!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ll go for the self check-out machine when I’m in a supermarket: the queue is shorter, there’re many machines and I get to do everything at my own pace.
With cashiering being a job that demands a person to stand for a long period, it’s no surprise that finding manpower isn’t easy.
Five years ago, NTUC FairPrice introduced self-checkout counter to cope with the shortage of manpower. Instead of having six cashiers at the traditional point-of-sale machines, the productivity initiative only requires one staff to man the self-checkout counters. If you notice, the staff usually steps in to solve machine errors and guide consumers on how to operate the machine.
While it may eventually lead to a total wipe-out of human cashiers, humans are still able to value add at this point in time. And in case you think self-checkout machines can’t accept cash, just visit more Cheers outlets and you’ll be shocked at the technology.
It doesn’t matter what you coordinate, whether it’s to match a driver to a location or an individual to a course: software could have, unfortunately, done it faster than you. With off-the-shelf software and personalised software to perform your task, it’s inevitable that soon, this will be automated.
Take the example of Smove, a car rental company. Booking a car could be as easy as merely a few clicks of the mouse by the customer without even mouthing a single word.
In the past, everyone thought the mop was like the best invention ever—then came this unique cleaning device that simplified everything.
But it didn’t take long before this came and made everything else obsolete.
Ok to be fair, this is useful for homes but it’s not going to keep our pavements clean. Outdoor cleaners are also empowered to pick up skills to operate machineries! Are they afraid that machines will replace their jobs? Not for 53-year-old convservancy cleaner, Mr Anbalakan s/o Arunachalam.
Here’s what he said: “Isn’t it better that you know the machine so well that you manage the machine, and not the other way round?”
With the progressive wage model in place for cleaners, their pay will increase when they upgrade their skills. How I wish all bosses peg their employees’ pay to their skills! It’s a great way to encourage everyone to attend training courses and upgrade themselves.
A bookkeeper is called a bookkeeper because she will keep track of accounts with a book. But here’s the thing: which company still uses a book to track its accounts? Even the most old-fashioned companies use Microsoft Excel.
Bookkeeping software has even become so sophisticated that they can do more than just bookkeeping: it keeps track of your inventory, issues invoice and could even be used as an app. It’s always been a mystery why people are still learning accounting when a software could compile a balance sheet with just a click of the mouse.
However, another way of looking at it is…will you allow technology to take over your job or will you continue to find new ways to add value to your job?
In the NTUC U Future Leaders Summit this year, Secretary-General of NTUC Chan Chun Sing posed an interesting question to the crowd. He asked the audience if they think there will be more accountants or less in 4 years’ time. Most people think there’re going to be fewer accountants.
However, he said when they did a survey with accountants, some said there’ll be more jobs for them instead. With platforms like Upwork where companies can look for freelancers around the globe, these accountants can look beyond the local market and serve global markets as well!
Just like the co-ordinator, a software could easily take over your job. Plus, there’s no need for any conversation that might lead to angry words.
Actually, if you think about it, any clerk is at risk of being displaced–it’s just a matter of whether it’ll come in a form of a software or a tangible humanoid robot.
While the human touch of a person greeting you and helping you deposit your money is still highly sought-after, the dreadful wait for your turn overshadows that moment. Machines outside the bank could do almost everything, and they’re there 24 hours a day.
Heck, even our phones are capable of banking nowadays. With banks investing more in technology, it’s no surprise that retail banks might just turn into banking machines instead.
Look at this.
And closer to home, this.
If you’re the owner of a restaurant, would you engage servers or simply just buy one of these? The answer is clear, isn’t it?
In fact, many restaurants have moved on to having a tablet at each table for you to place your order. Days of verbally ordering your food and chatting with the cute waitress might be numbered.
Courier (delivery person)
This might be a little far-fetched, but it’s far-fetched only because of bureaucracy as the technology is already here.
Flying drones to deliver your online purchase are not just fast, but convenient as well. The only setback is the safety of the drones and the air-space it takes: with no regulation, our parcels could just collide with our neighbours’ parcel.
But with the technology ready, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
It’s pretty ironic here: physical books have been taken over by e-books, and libraries might soon be staffed by robots. Technology is basically changing the entire industry altogether, one baby step a time.
Earlier this year, Singapore put herself on the world map again with the invention of a robot that could walk down the library shelves and compile a list of lost or misplaced books. Known as AuRoSS, it is already on trial in several Singapore public libraries.
Soon, if you’re looking for a book, you might just want to talk to AuRoSS instead of a librarian. Or maybe by then, you’ve forgotten the role of a librarian altogether.
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