Singapore has always been at the forefront of technological advancement and adoption in the Southeast Asian region. Their decisiveness in terms of adapting to the shifting winds of the global market have led to them developing a powerful economy despite the lack of land and resources available to the city-state.
Things are no different with the advent of IR4.0. Singapore was once again first in line to adapt to the proliferation of new technology such as AI and smart automation. These new technologies have created plenty of new jobs over multiple industries that have been disrupted by technology.
As stated by the Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, the true challenge Singapore faces now is the task of retraining workers to transit from their current positions to the new ones.
In a recent interview with Channel News Asia, Mr Chan said that these workers need to be retrained as fast as possible to quickly make optimal use of the new technology. He gave the example of how staff who previously worked as bank tellers have now been retrained to be customer relations officers, involved in selling insurance and wealth management products.
“Their previous jobs have been displaced by technology, but they have been retrained by the banks, together with the Government, to take on new jobs, and it is very exciting to hear how people in their 40s, 50s are able to take on new roles,” he said.
The minister’s comments come amid an increase in retrenchments and a drop in job vacancies in the first quarter of 2019, owing mainly to restructuring and reorganisation.
Mr Chan has also encouraged workers to remain confident as for every job that is being displaced by technology, more jobs are being created by that very same technology. As such, Singapore needs to keep training and retraining workers so that they have the best opportunities and skillsets to thrive in the new economy.
The minister did caution however, that the employment landscape will be ‘uneven’ for a time as people are displaced and need to be retrained. Positions that require high skill and competency such as information technology and AI in particular will be lacking in sufficient candidates for some time. This is a global issue and is not exclusive to Singapore.