Automation, AI pressure factory labour market

Automation, AI pressure factory labour market

Institute predicts more jobless in 2019

Robots assemble cars at Honda's manufacturing plant in Prachin Buri. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Robots assemble cars at Honda's manufacturing plant in Prachin Buri. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

The technological disruption caused by automated systems and artificial intelligence (AI) is pressuring the country's labour market, particularly the manufacturing sector, say business operators.

Many disruptive factors change quickly, so companies should prepare themselves, said Thavorn Chalassathien, chairman of the Human Capacity Building Institute.

Mr Thavorn said Thailand's labour outlook for 2019 will see further unemployment as many companies adopt automated systems and AI at their facilities to replace human workers.

There are many factors in using higher technology, such as labour shortages, skill mismatches and higher wages, he said.

The institute, part of the Federation of Thai Industries, conducted a survey and found that many companies are demanding vocational employees such as technicians and engineers as they match the new targeted industries that the government is promoting.

"Roughly 30% of vocational students in Thailand's educational institutions can serve the labour market, while the majority at 70% are mismatched in terms of skills," Mr Thavorn said.

He said each company should provide training programmes to develop their existing human resources amid the current labour shortage.

The government is promoting 12 targeted industries: new-generation automobiles; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; medical services; defence; and education.

"As a result, new manpower should match these S-curve industries in the near future," Mr Thavorn said.

Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the National Labour Development Advisory Council, said Thailand's unemployment rate in 2019 will reach 1.2-1.3% or roughly 400,000-500,000 workers from a total number of 38 million workers in the country.

"The unemployment rate will increase from 2018 at 1%, and most of those will come from the manufacturing sector," said Mr Tanit, who is also vice-chairman of the Employers' Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry.

Many companies have to adjust their business to access automated systems and AI in line with the Industry 4.0 era, which is changing the global manufacturing sector.

"New technology and innovation can mitigate the problem of unskilled workers, which means that many such workers are expected to lose their jobs in the near future," Mr Tanit said.

He said that since the global economy is slowing this year, many manufacturers globally will not employ new staff such as fresh graduate students.

Mr Tanit said the unemployment rate will gradually rise from the first quarter of 2019 because some educational institutions will turn out new graduate students in March.

University students will graduate in May.

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