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19M workers need upskilling amid automation

MORE THAN 19 million Filipino workers will need additional training as more jobs are expected to be displaced by automation, McKinsey & Company said.

McKinsey & Company Senior Partner Kaushik Das said on Tuesday that the manufacturing, accommodation and food services, agriculture, and retail and wholesale sectors have the most automation potential in the Philippines.

“(A) pretty significant number of workers in each of these sectors can get affected or will get affected,” he said during the Arangkada online forum, referring to displacement based on existing technologies.

But Mr. Das also said that technology can also translate to the creation of millions of jobs.

“In the Philippines, I think we have various estimates of somewhere between 10 and 14 million new jobs over the next 10 years — how do you prepare your people for that?”

In April, the country’s unemployment rate surged to a 15-year high of 17.7% due to the lockdown. This translates to 7.25 million jobless Filipinos, three times more than the same month last year. The rate eased to 10% in July after restrictions were eased.

Mr. Das said private firms and the education sector will play important roles in economic recovery post-pandemic.

“We do think that this skilling and reskilling of people, of workers of scale — not reskilling a thousand people or 5,000 people but a million people over the next 18 months, that’s very important,” he said.

“That’s important for social reasons. It’s important for economic reasons. Empowering or figuring out a way to reach out to SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) is very important.”

Mr. Das cited Singapore as a model, noting that its government created a facility with the private sector and the academe for research and learning.

Initial experimentation and training stages for small businesses is shouldered by the Singapore government, he said.

“There is a lot that governments can do to accelerate change, to accelerate adoption, and to take out the risks that some of these companies face in trying new technology.”

The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) said that it is scaling down its upskilling pilot program due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. The industry group plans to start pilot classes online in January.

Victor Andres Manhit, Stratbase Group founder and managing director, said that the private sector plays a big role in creating jobs.

“Jobs will help boost the consumption-driven economy that has been the main driver of the economy,” he said, adding that beyond government, the civil society and private sector play a role in recovery.

“In the end, the government will not create the investments that will address the economy, it’s the private sector. So we need both sectors to work together, and you need to create that environment for the sector to feel confident that their investment will really prosper, and on their part indirectly the necessary economic recovery through job creation.” — Jenina P. Ibañez

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