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Government seeks to prepare labour force over automation

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Labour Minister Ith Samheng delivers a speech. KT/Pan Rachana

Labour Minister Ith Samheng yesterday highlighted the importance of preparing Cambodia’s labour market to face challenges raised by the advancement of technology.

The Ministry of Labour yesterday hosted an event in Phnom Penh to discuss the future of work with labour experts from the government and unions, and also UN resident coordinator Pauline Tamesis.

Mr Samheng said advanced technology may replace humans for various jobs in the future, noting that young Cambodians must upgrade their knowledge and learn new skills to prepare for a changing labour market.

He added that while the impact of technology on the labour market today is still small, the government is already preparing the country’s human resources to face upcoming challenges.

“Right now, the impact of technology on the labour market is not yet evident. So even though some sectors see a decrease in job demands, other sectors see an increase,” Mr Samheng. “However, we need to prepare for the future and the first step is to develop human resources with new skills for the digital era.”

He said that according to a 2016 study by the International Labour Organisation, the top five Asean countries at risk of automation over the next two decades include Vietnam, with 70 percent of the workforce facing possible job losses, followed by Cambodia with 57 percent, Indonesia with 56 percent, the Philippines with 49 percent and Thailand with 44 percent.

“So in the future, the advancement of technology will create new types of work and will cause a fall in youth employment if they do not receive the right skill training and improve their abilities in accordance with evolving labour market needs,” Mr Samheng said.

In Cambodia, the highest share of workers at risk of losing their jobs due to increasing automation are found in contrition retail.

In the garment industry, 88 percent of jobs are at risk of being automated, with women as well as low-skilled workers expected to be the most effected.

Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that technology is developing fast in Cambodia, therefore relevant sectors must prepare policies ahead of the changes, including by providing more training.

“Now, less human roles are available for advertisement, for example, since there is more of a focus on online platforms to promote products. This is part of the technological revolution,” Mr Sou Ieng said.

Ath Thorn, president of Cambodia Labour Confederation, said that workers are beginning to express concern over losing their jobs to technology in the future.

He said that some workers still lack adequate skills, while others are not adapting fast enough to changes.

“Some youths would like to study law, economy, but in terms of technology, they seem to not be interested,” Mr Thorn said. “They will face challenges in the future.”

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