Technology can help Singapore overcome manpower shortage

In an interview with Quartz on February 17, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that governments should implement a “robot tax” on the machines that are taking over human jobs. His idea has been met with significant backlash.

This was one point raised at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum held at National University of Singapore (NUS) on March 14, 2017.

Minister of Manpower Lim Swee Say at Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2017. Photo courtesy: Wee Teck Hian
Minister of Manpower Lim Swee Say at Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2017. Photo courtesy: Wee Teck Hian

The forum was themed ‘Singapore’s Changing Demographics — Maintaining a Thriving Economy with a Diversified Workforce,’ according to a report by Todayonline on March 15. At the forum, the Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say fielded a host of questions from an audience of about 150 people, who are mainly undergraduates.

Lim said that while there are legitimate concerns in countries about technology putting workers out of jobs, such a worry would be large unfounded in Singapore. The challenging facing the country now is the shortage of workers, and therefore as far as Singapore is concerned, technology will in fact help overcome this bottleneck.

Photo courtesy:
Photo courtesy:

Technology could help the workforce become more manpower-lean, and improve the quality of jobs, stressed Lim. “Instead of being fearful of technology, even if [it] takes away jobs, let’s make sure that it takes away jobs from our competitors, not us.”

“So let’s run with technology,” he said.  

Kareyst Lin
Kareyst Lin – Senior Correspondent

Kareyst has experience in writing about B2B technology for Computerworld Singapore, MIS Asia and CIO Asia; and on government technology for GCIO Asia. Her pet areas are artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and smart cities - these are fueled by her obsession with sci-fi movies and philosophy of mind. An active Yoga practitioner and cat lover, with a background in Indian philosophy, subaltern and diaspora studies.


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