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.
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.
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.