Workers must upgrade to cope with disruptive technology
Workers can cope with impact of disruptive technology if they re-train and upgrade skills
Disruptive technology could have a negative impact of jobs - but only in the short run if workers continue to improve their skills and knowledge, say experts.
On Saturday, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said in his New Year message that he felt uneasy about 2017 because of the disruptive forces at work.
One example he cited was how technology and slow economic growth could disrupt the lives of workers.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally speech, had noted that technology was replacing jobs, with factories employing more robots and fewer workers.
Experts told The New Paper yesterday that disruptive technology - new products such as automation or services that create a new market and disrupt the existing one - could lead to the loss of jobs in the short run as Singapore undergoes a structural change.
Likely to be hardest hit would be those doing traditional, repetitive jobs, said Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan.
Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said that workers could re-train or upgrade their skills to stay relevant.
"The change has already begun, with jobs moving to higher levels of automation and digitalisation," he said.
"But I don't think the workforce would have difficulty adapting, given that there are a lot of training and development schemes to support workers' progress."
Mr Tan listed SkillsFuture, Adapt and Grow, and the Earn and Learn initiatives as some training opportunities that Singaporeans could turn to.
He said workers could also find a niche market to tap into if they wish to remain in their current industries.
"What they need to do is look at providing customised services for their clients or industry that robotics or artificial intelligence programs cannot.
"This could be a more practical way rather than having to change completely," he said.
Mr Wee said Singaporeans could also look for opportunities abroad.
But above all, Singaporeans need to be open-minded and be mentally prepared to adapt to technological advances, said Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.
"It is important to always remember that learning is a process that never ends. That is something that Singaporeans must equip ourselves with. That is the mindset we need to survive," he said.
West Coast MP Patrick Tay, who is also assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said: "Workers need the necessary ability (acquire new skills/competencies), agility (to move into and across new roles/jobs) and adaptability (cycles of job loss/gain) to embrace disruption and its consequent impacting changes so as to stay future-ready and future-proof."