In this complex world where the advancement of
science and technology is reaching its peak, it is no wonder that claims of
robots or automation will displace jobs are commonplace. This is validated by
numerous reports in recent years where millions of workers will be replaced by
robots and automation in other countries while in Singapore, there is a growing
trend of companies and schools started to make use of robots to perform certain
However, such issue is nothing new as looking at the historical timeline in
Singapore, the Second Industrial Revolution which started in the 1980s marked a
significant increase in technology sophistication to perform menial tasks and also
efficient in manufacturing mass-produced goodsiii
(Rodan et al. 2006). Since then, such phenomenon is escalated and the
creation of artificial intelligence (AI) in robotics is a new concern not just
in Singapore but other parts of the world as welliv.
As a result, this will lead to structural unemployment and physical jobs are
more likely to turn automatedv.
In addition, job polarization will occur and income inequality due to
stagnation of median wages may worsen and the economic growth due to the
investments and production from robotics may not be reflective of the actual
standard of living in an economyvi.
From an Economics major’s perspective, the use of current statistics to predict
the situation in the future is important and while robots can replace workers
in many occupations, it is also certain that it creates new jobs as wellvii.
The technical and intellectual skills to develop and maintain robotics itself
create new jobs and innovation paved the way for new industries to emerge with
jobs that are previously nonexistent. I believe that it is a misconception that
AI will replace everything as AI was developed and is continuously developing
as a technology to augment our lives and amplify our capabilities in many
industries. As such, AI can be used to complement many jobs including physical
and intellectual jobs. Singapore is facing manpower crunch due to low birth
and hence, the issue of robots replacing jobs is less inapplicable as robots provide
a buffer in a case of an economic downturn by supporting the workforce in
In fact, the government started to invest in human capital through an increased
expenditure on higher education and rolled out courses for deskilled workers to
gain a new skill set to suit the changing economic climate such as the
SkillsCredit Future Schemexxi.
As such, I believe that rather than tackling the problem of robots displacing
workers, our society should this issue in a positive light and as an opportunity
for workers to upgrade themselves with the help from the government.
iii Garry Rodan, Kevin Hewison & Richard Robison (2006). The
Political Economy of Southeast Asia: Markets, Power and Contestation Third
Edition Oxford University Press. Chapter 5: Singapore: Globalisation, the
State, and Politics. Pg. 140-145