18 Jun 2021
The Sasin Research Seminar Series continues with a presentation by Assistant Professor Piyachart Phiromswad, Ph.D. & Assistant Professor Sabin Srivannaboon, Ph.D. The research formed the basis of an article that is currently going through the journal submission process. The talk looked at two major disruptive forces that will shape the nature and future of work – automation and an aging population. Specifically, it analyzed how these two issues will interact and affect the labor market. There is a lot of concern that automation and the computerization of tasks will lead to job losses. This, coupled with population aging and resulting skill deterioration, may severely impact the employment sector. The talk began with Dr. Piyachart pointing out that change is inevitable, and this has always been the case. Relating this to the research, he then looked at the changes resulting from ‘exponential technologies’ and ‘demographic disruption’. To introduce exponential technologies, he gave examples of high-impact technologies, including automation (and AI), blockchain, next-generation energy, and augmented and virtual reality. He then explained in more detail what was meant by automation and how it differed from AI. Next was a look at demographic disruption, with figures showing how life expectancy and the global population has increased while the number of children born has decreased. It was also pointed out that some countries like Thailand are growing older more rapidly and expect the working population to drop dramatically. The reasons why demographic disruption is important were outlined: the issue presents unexplored opportunities for entrepreneurs, entities like the UN can predict population growth with great accuracy, and in countries like Thailand, an aging society is rapidly approaching. Dr. Sabin Srivannaboon then gave a brief overview of the article and the project’s progress, and the motivation and reasons behind the research question. The next section of the talk looked more in detail at how computerization and population aging will affect the labor market. The data revealed that certain jobs, such as data entry and telemarketers, are very likely to be computerized. However, occupations requiring high levels of perception and manipulation, creative intelligence, or social intelligence are likely to be less affected. To better understand the issues, a framework was used to understand the effects of aging. While many physical attributes decline with age, when it came to cognitive ability, certain skills such as comprehension and expression improved, while memory and speed depreciated. With this information on automation and population aging, the researchers were able to look at interaction effects on the US labor market. It is the first paper to do this analysis. A lot of data was generated in the study and Dr. Piyachart gave an example of information they used for the research – in this case, it was estimates for employment growth and the impact of automation and population aging. It showed that automation would, on average, have a negative impact on employment. However, with aging, there were both positive and negative components. The results and conclusions drawn show that both automation and population aging have already reshaped the labor market, and this trend may strengthen in the future. However, it was only employment growth that was affected, as wages remained constant. It also seems that while the job market has been reshaped, it is not all negative. Some age-appreciating cognitive skills will be in high demand, and specific job sectors are unlikely to be influenced by automation and may even grow. The talk was informative and was followed by a fascinating discussion covering topics such as wage rigidity, the possibilities of a dystopian versus utopian future, and how history has shown that advances in technology usually lead to changing types of employment, not a reduction in jobs. It will be interesting to see what the future holds and what the research reveals.
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