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Dear Pn Aarifa, 
I’m an avid fan of your segment, HR to Heart with Pn Aarifa at HR Talk Show. 
My name is Cynthia and I’m placed at the helm of learning and development for over a hundred team members in our construction and agricultural equipment company. I have enjoyed getting my team to catch up to the Industrial 4.0 requirements, yet we’ve seen ourselves cutting down on training hours because our key clients have effectively moved their warehouses to an online cloud. Digital designs are now downloaded to different locations and printed to order. It’s an anomaly that we didn’t foresee.Their reshoring will definitely impact our human capital strategy. What is being done by other manufacturers to prepare?
Cynthia Tham, ACME Equipment Company

The letter above serves only as an illustration of the burgeoning reality in ASEAN and the challenge that HR directors face today and in the near future. 


Basis for fears over job losses in ASEAN

Every industrial revolution creates fears over job losses. In the past, however, new technologies generally led to more jobs being created through the growth of new industries.

But according to ADB-WEF’s November 2017 White Paper, “ASEAN 4.0: What does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for regional economic integration?”, under the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the outlook is less positive. 

The International Labour Organization estimates that 56% of jobs in five ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Thailand and the Philippines) are at high risk of automation in the next few decades. Below are the high-value jobs of the future, indicated by the ADB-WEF 2017 White Paper:

Artificial intelligence and robotics are rapidly increasing the jobs that machines can perform better and faster than people. 

While this may reduce costs and raise productivity, it will also threaten jobs, and some members of ASEAN will be more affected than others. The immediate threats are to low-skilled, repetitive jobs (such as assembly line workers), but services jobs are also at risk, threatening to undermine regional success stories such as the rise of the business-process outsourcing sector in the Philippines. 

At the same time as jobs are at rising risk of automation, the workforce in ASEAN is forecast to grow by 11,000 new workers every day for the next 15 years. In the short term at least, it is likely that unemployment will increase. This could lead to higher numbers of economic migrants within ASEAN and increasing inequality.


ASEAN: From “the next world factory” to the “end of traditional Factory Asia” in 3 years

Just a little over two (2) years ago, Jakarta Post highlighted that “Asean is the next world factory.” 

In 2015, nations including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have developed their infrastructure to support international businesses, covering export-processing zones, training and education systems and an investment-friendly regulatory climate. But in 2018, WEF and Asian Development Bank reported on the end of traditional “Factory Asia”. 

Industrialization within many Southeast Asian countries had thrived on supplying relatively low-cost and low-skilled labour attracting foreign investment. 

Most importantly, artificial intelligence and robotics is quickly decreasing the competitiveness of low-cost and low-skilled labour. Equally, 3D printing will transform the nature of manufacturing. Today, many goods are made at centralized locations operating at scale and producing standardized products. 

In future, 3D printing may mean that products are produced locally, next to demand, on a highly customized basis.


[above photo] Inside auto factory in Thailand, known as the "Detroit of Southeast Asia"


The change is happening at lightning speed.

Retraining and skills development may cushion the impact of automation, but they will not prevent deep disruption. Do you foresee these trends affecting your organization in the future? How does your experience differ and what are the similarities? Share your story at the HR Talk Show 2018. 

It’s tough when almost every aspect of our lives will be touched: jobs, business models, industrial structures, social interactions, systems of governance. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will even challenge the very concept of what it means to be human.  

75% of 1600 CEOs in 19 countries surveyed convey that their organizations aren’t ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution economy. (Deloitte, January 2018) 

2018 is the moment of great reset, threatening the incumbent market leaders, and rapidly advancing challengers. 

Attend the HR Talk Show 2018, on September 5, 2018, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and gain the wisdom to know what must be preserved and honored from the past and muster the courage to reimagine and boldly reinvent your future, as you embark in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Established in 2007, the HR Talk Show series is a high-impact interactive platform bridging the gap between government and business initiatives to drive human capital best practices and actionable insights into talent, technology and strategic HR. In a unique talk show format, CEOs, HR Directors, CIOs/CTOs and their CFOs from ASEAN’s and the world’s most admired companies will be working with 400 participants to interactively walk through the most current human capital challenges in fast-growing economies to ensure that the most important leaders in businesses and public organizations can:

• Stay superior and thrive in the Industry 4.0 economy

• Drive agility in learning, upskilling and leadership

• Cast off accident-prone legacy strategies for talent management

• Build digital awareness and evolve with fresh HR technology and services

• Leapfrog into disruptive roles with greater clarity of thought and vision 

To sponsor or bring a group of 10, email the HR Talk Show 2018 Secretariat at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Kyozuka, Tamaki (2016). “Thailand's auto output hits 30-month high.” Nikkei Asian Review, April 22, 2016. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Thailand-s-auto-output-hits-30-month-high 
Wilson, Karl (2015). “Asean is the next world factory.” Jakarta Post, September 26, 2015. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/09/26/asean-next-world-factory.html
Wood, Justin, Jayant Menon et. al. (November 2017). “ASEAN 4.0: What does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for regional economic integration?” White Paper. Asian Development Bank and World Economic Forum.

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