One in six Malaysians could be automated

12 December 2019

While AI will bring efficiency and revenue growth to Malaysian businesses, the impact on the workforce is only beginning to be understood.

Malaysia’s economy is poised to embrace AI as a tool for enhancing productivity, improving accuracy, and delivering new digital products and services. According to a recent poll by MIT Technology Review Insights, half of business leaders in Malaysia consider AI to have positive value and are investing on a case-by-case basis. Some 62% consider AI to be one of the top three technologies that will transform their business over the next five years.

But young Malaysians are worried. A YouGov survey of over 1,000 Malaysians showed that a third believe their jobs are at risk of automation. Levels of concern were greater among respondents in lower income brackets.

Recently published data developed by MIT Technology Review and Faethm, a software-as-a-service analytics company that models the future of work, which models hundreds of job roles and tasks against 16 different classes of emerging technologies and taking country and industry tech-readiness into consideration, finds that job roles will be disappear.

In Malaysia, some 14% of current jobs are likely to be automated by technology within the next five years. The sectors that will be most greatly affected are manufacturing, with 21% of jobs at risk, followed by transportation (20%), administration services, utilities, and wholesale and retail (17% at risk in each sector).

Yet the other side of the AI story is the about the number jobs that will be supported and enhanced, or ‘augmented’, by AI. “There’s been some very alarming predictions,” says Michael Priddis, chief executive officer at Faethm, and “as a result of this, most people think that technology equals or will result in large scale large-scale automation.”

“In some cases, that’s true,” he says, “but at the same time technology will also augment work, so jobs will be retained but materially changed, and it will add jobs.”

In Malaysia, 10% of current jobs are likely to be augmented by AI within five years. The industries where the most roles will be augmented by AI are information and communication technologies and public administration (both 14% of roles), and healthcare (13%).

Figure 1: Automation and augmentation of jobs in Malaysia within five years

Source: Compiled by MIT Technology Review Insights using data provided by Faethm, 2019

In the face of this disruptive wave of technology, Malaysians are being proactive and taking the opportunity to learn new skills. According to the YouGov poll, over half of respondents are learning additional technological skills and this jumps to three-quarters amongst those who believe their roles are “very likely” to be replaced by technology.

This article was originally published on MIT Insights

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