High tech cuts into jobs, unemployment up

Visitors watch a robot fry eggs during a demonstration in Nonthaburi province early this year. The NESDB reports that new technology is replacing many jobs, leading to higher unemployment. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

The number of jobless people rose in the third quarter of this year as businesses increasingly replaced workers with high technology, according to the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).

NESDB secretary-general Porametee Vimolsiri said on Thursday that overall employment fell by 1.6%. In the agricultural sector, employment declined 1.2% due to flooding in July and August.  

In the non-farming sector, the number of jobs was down 1.8%, with workers in the production, construction, wholesale, hotel and restaurant sectors most affected.

He attributed the situation to the increasing use of technology in production and business administration.

Exports grew well in capital-intensive industries such as electronics, automotive and chemical industries. Exports in labour-intensive industries expanded slowly. They included garments and textiles. Some products in this group were sold solely to reduce stocks.

The unemployment rate was 1.19%, with 450,000 out of work, up from 0.94% in the same period last year. The number of people of working age was estimated at 38 million.

Jobless graduates who have never had a job made up 43.4% of the unemployed, with 85% of them  having tried to find a job for up to six months.

Of the unemployed,, 65% had high school level education or lower and had been looking for jobs for up to three months. Mr Porametee said that the group had a higher risk of unemployment than other groups because new technologies were replacing humans in repetitive tasks.

Automated systems meant employers need hire only the people who control the machines. Growing electronic commerce and online booking and check-in services meant a reduction in the number of sales and customer service staff, Mr Porametee said.

The labour market would increasingly require workers be able to use technology, analyze and handle big data and be multi-skilled, including knowledge of languages, and have working flexibility, he said.

He warned agricultural operators to shift to technology because the availability of labourers was declining in the farm sector as the workforce aged, and because of the hard work there were fewer people willing to replace them.

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