Asia, including Southeast Asian countries, is embracing robot adoption at a faster rate than Europe and the USA. According to the report “Which Nations Really Lead in Industrial Robot Adoption? by Information Technology & Innovation Technology (ITIF), Asian countries are considerably ahead in wage-controlled robot adoption significantly.

The report examined 27 countries. With 658 robots per 10,000 workers, Singapore leads the Southeast Asia region and is at the second position worldwide, right behind Korea. Rounding off the region is Thailand with 48 industrial robots per 10,000 workers, showing adoption rates 159% higher than the wage levels would predict. The other Asian countries rounding off the top 10 are China, Taiwan and Japan.

Why is Asia ahead?

The ITIF report does not clearly state any particular reason as to why some economies, especially those in Southeast Asia, are ahead in robot adoption. However, there are likely many contributing factors owing to expedited robot adoption rates in the region. For example, some of the leading countries in the region have established national goals and unique strategies to support robotics innovation and robot adoption.

Some Southeast Asian nations have proactive tax policies to provide incentives for advanced technology adoption. In Singapore, for example, in the first year, firms can expense all computers and automation equipment, energy efficiency equipment and robots. In addition, companies in the manufacturing and engineering services industries have higher chances of receiving investment allowances for projects along with depreciation allowances.

However, given the findings of reports and other statistics, it would only be fair to say that robots have arrived and they are indeed coming for our jobs, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Robot adoption and automation will create new jobs

There have been a number of reports that suggest robot adoption and automation will actually lead to an increase in the demand for skilled resources and hence new jobs. A recent Capgemini study that surveyed around 992 companies that are implementing AI and robotics across the world with revenues of $500 million, reveals that robot adoption will create more new jobs than it will destroy. In the study, 83% of participants reported that new jobs were created owing to robotics and AI implementation while 63% said that robot adoption had not destroyed any jobs in their organisations.

A study of Amazon’s robot adoption versus hiring trends supports these findings. In the last three year, the number of robots working in Amazon’s warehouses has increased from 1,400 to 45,000 but the hiring rate for workers hasn’t changed during this period.

black Samsung Galaxy smartphone displaying Amazon logo

Robots will lead to better productivity and better living standards

The key to achieving better living standards in a sustainable manner is by bringing about a considerable increase in productivity. And, according to the ITIF report, one of the most important technologies to help increase productivity going forward, is robotics.

Improving productivity in industries like logistics that require tasks will be dependent on much cheaper robots. However, it is true that robots are already contributing to driving productivity. A study found that investment in robots contributed around 10 percent of the total growth in GDP per capita in OECD countries between 1993 and 2016. But this is barely scratching the surface. Once we are able to attain the full potential of robotics and technology catches up to the market’s demands, there is no limit to the possibilities of the industry. From picking up garbage to cleaning streets and preparing/delivering food to providing room service in hotels – the opportunity and benefits will be endless.

This would free human resources from mundane laborious tasks so they can focus on honing their skills to get better jobs and thus have better lives. All of this would eventually lead to a much more prosperous world with higher living standards.

We need to look at robotic adoption as an opportunity rather than as a threat. We need to remember that this is not a ‘man versus machine’ but ‘man and machine’ scenario.

The only potential job disruption on a major scale resulting from robots will be due to the lack of qualified talent owing to the lack of proper training. To prevent this, we need to start investing in and providing adequate educational opportunities to our current human resource so they can be ready for the next era.