KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 ― Up to 54 per cent of workers in Malaysia could be displaced by technology in the next 20 years, said a non-profit international development organisation.
Asia Foundation country head Herizal Hazri said that while the number is “alarming”, the phenomenon was global and not unique to Malaysia.
In his presentation at the National Economic Outlook 2018-2019 organised by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), Herizal said more than 70 per cent of all semi-skilled and 80 per cent of all low-skilled jobs were at high risk.
“These occupations cut across all major economic sectors. Skilled jobs are also not unaffected: about 40 per cent of skilled jobs are at medium risk.
“Proportionately, it is the semi-skilled jobs that are most affected: four out of five of all jobs at high risk of technological displacement are semi-skilled,” Herizal wrote in the paper titled “Technology: A disruption to sustainable growth?”.
Herizal was scheduled to present his paper today, but was unable to make it for undisclosed reasons.
He also warned that Malaysia could face a “premature deindustrialisation” if it does not prepare for the advent of labour-saving automation.
With major trading nations increasingly adopting such technology, he said Malaysia could lose the advantage that lower labour costs offers its manufacturing sector as firms repatriate their factories.
He said the overall threat to employment was that emerging industries were not labour intensive, while some traditional industries that have high labour needs were now waning.
“As an example, YouTube was founded in 2005 by three people. Less than two years later, the company was purchased by Google for about US$1.65 billion (RM6.7 billion).
“At the time of acquisition, YouTube employed a mere 65 people, majority were highly skilled engineers, which is a valuation of over US$25 million per employee,” Herizal wrote.