India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are most at risk and least prepared for the coming wave of automation, while Japan, Singapore and Australia are the most prepared within the Asia Pacific region, according to a latest report by Deloitte and Autodesk Foundation. Close to half of all businesses intend to increase their adoption of robotic process automation over the next year, with Covid-19 greatly accelerating the process across the world, according to the report 'The Future of Work is Now: Is APAC Ready?'.
In particular, India ranks fifth highest in terms of the impact from automation and ninth in terms of their level preparedness for this impact. The country faces a greater likelihood of being impacted by automation due to larger employment shares in agriculture, manufacturing, and construction - all identified as high-risk industries by the report.
The construction industry is the most likely to be one of the hardest hit by automation across all Asia Pacific countries due to a high proportion of routine and manual tasks and low year-on-year global productivity growth (1% over the past 20 years to 2017). In India, the construction sector is the most likely to be automated, but it is the fifth most vulnerable, ahead of Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar and the Philippines.
India, the Philippines and Indonesia have a higher likelihood of automation for the agriculture sector even as Pakistan's agri-sector was at the highest risk of impact from automation. Increased demand for food and sustainable farming methods is expected to lead to higher adoption of automation and digital solutions. Technologies such as AI can also help reduce spoilage, increase productivity, and add US$9 billion to farmer incomes.
India's mining sector has the second-highest risk of impact from automation after Bangladesh. The sector's vulnerability to automation stems from its relatively low skill requirements, its high degree of routine and manual tasks, and use of direct physical activity to operate machinery. Mining comprises less than 1% of the workforce in 10 out of 12 countries analysed, suggesting that automation in mining is well-underway.
The report noted that digital change and automation are driving enormous productivity gains in the world of work which are helping improve standards of living across the globe. But there can also be significant adjustment costs associated with automation, and often those costs are felt by workers who are least able to successfully transition to new roles.
"Automation creates opportunities for new, more meaningful types of work as it replaces mundane or repetitive manual tasks, but the state of preparedness of countries and industries will determine whether they benefit from these advances. Improving digital literacy, supporting disadvantaged workers, and putting in place the right infrastructure and skills will help create new roles that workers can transition into," said Rajeev Mittal, Regional Director, India & SAARC, Autodesk.
The report also highlighted a series of proactive steps that should be taken to harness the benefits and address the risks, including increasing awareness of the need to adapt, funding industry-specific programmes for digital transformation and investing in learning programmes. This includes new credentialing and certification programs to give workers the skills they need to succeed, partnerships across the public and private sector to make workforce development a priority, and much more, Mittal added.
The study by Autodesk, the Nasdaq-listed multinational software maker, analysed 12 APAC countries including Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
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