, Singapore

Here's why robots won't take your job

Human resources is still a critical component of Singapore’s Smart City vision.

With the Lion City pushing forward with its vision to become a Smart Nation, it is no question that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation has caused jitters amongst employees, particularly those in administrative roles, wondering if their jobs are on the line.

“Administrative and supporting roles are the most threatened in 2019,” Korn Ferry’s senior client partner Robert Li told Singapore Business Review. “It is observed that many organisations in Singapore are digitalising their administrative systems, such as to an outsourced online platform, to lower cost and improve efficiency.”

However, new employment opportunities and roles are expected to emerge in the wake of digitalisation, according to a 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).

“When MGI looked at the potential for automating activities, it found that just 5% of occupations could be fully automated with currently demonstrated technologies,” Diaan-Yi Lin, senior partner and managing partner for McKinsey & Company Singapore, said in the report.

Of the 11 Asian countries in the study, Singapore was found to have the lowest proportion of work that can be automated with such technologies.

Firms in Singapore have been observed to have created new roles within the tax functions and hire experts to handle narrow and specific job scopes such as corporate tax, transfer pricing and goods and services tax (GST) to capitalise on the value of technology in their operations, according to Randstad’s latest market outlook. Time-consuming tasks such as financial record inspections would be further aided by technology in order to go through large volumes of transaction and information records at a faster speed whilst minimising the risk of exposure.

Also read: Digitally-driven internal auditors to be in hot demand in 2019: report

Likewise, companies that specialise in AI and cyber-security solutions have been actively expanding their operations in APAC and setting up new offices in Singapore to meet the region’s demands. As a result, startups and multinational corporations (MNCs) are growing their headcount to further meet the increasing customer needs for new technology products and digital services.

“To develop and implement smart projects that leverage new technologies such as AI, automation and analytic tools, Singapore will require more talent in the likes of engineers, programmers, data analysts and technicians, as well as UX designers, behavioural scientists or experienced designers across most sectors,” said Ernst & Young (EY) ASEAN people advisory leader Dilys Boey. “The Skills Frameworks that were developed for each of the industry transformation maps specifically outline the breadth and variety of job roles that will created or transformed.”

Also read: SMU ties up with Alibaba to launch digital training course for 1,000 SME professionals

In demand skill sets may equal higher pay
Given the drive towards digital transformation across industries, it is unsurprising to note that companies are willing to shell out higher premiums for employees fluent in data analytics, cyber intelligence and cloud computing.

Candidates with the digital know-how and display a willingness to learn emerging technologies in the ever-changing landscape will continue to be highly coveted by businesses in 2019 and beyond, Hays outlined in a separate report, highlighting how digital competence is cited as one of the top prerequisites for employers when hiring talent. 

IT employers have already been observed to be willing to shell out premiums to staff with the best talent. According to research commissioned by recruiter Robert Half, almost half or 47% of chief information officers (CIOs) in Singapore are willing to offer higher remuneration to attract top IT talent.

“Professionals with technology-based skillsets are expected to be rewarded with substantial salary increments as finance roles with a higher dependency on robotics and automation continue to make a powerful impact on company growth, enabled through improved financial and business analysis, and enhanced strategic decision-making,” Robert Half Singapore’s managing director Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard explained.

Boey added that the salaries of hot jobs like data scientists, software and app developers and UX designers in sectors like financial services and education will continue to rise as firms compete for the limited pool of talent.

Also read: Salaries of digital talents could rise 10-15% when switching jobs in industries: report

According to Korn Ferry’s 2019 salary forecast, Singapore’s real salaries are expected to rise 3% in 2019.

Jobs in the oil and gas sector are projected to have the highest wage increase at 4%, whilst employees in the transportation, hi-tech, chemicals and public sector can expect hikes at 3%. “Singapore’s service-driven economy remains hungry for highly skilled workers, hence keeping the pressure on wages,” Li added.

Also read: Local technology and banking hiring to persist in 2019

“Finance leaders in Singapore agree that positive strides towards increased automation and a more AI-assisted future are helping finance and accounting professionals to increasingly move away from task-based roles to focus more on processing and generating information that is critical for corporate decisions and financial reporting,” Imbert-Bouchard said.

Overall, a majority or 80% of Singapore’s workforce continue to be optimistic that digital technology will present them with new opportunities. According to Randstad’s Workmonitor Q4 2018 report, more than seven in ten (74%) of the 400 employers and job seekers surveyed in Singapore agreed that such emerging technologies would have a positive impact on their job in the next five to ten years.

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