SINGAPORE (Sept 27): Close to one in five Singaporeans are scared or nervous about the impact of technology on their jobs, making the city-state’s workforce the second-most anxious in the world about job security.

In a new report from PwC, ‘Upskilling Hopes & Fears’, Singaporeans came just behind France (20%) and tied with the UK (18%) in a survey spanning 22,000 adults across 11 countries worldwide.

In Singapore, more than half of the 2,000-plus adults surveyed said they were nervous or scared that technology would make their roles redundant, while more than one-third said they were worried that they wouldn’t have the right skills to weather through those changes.

On top of that, about half the Singaporeans surveyed believe automation will significantly change or make their job obsolete within the next 10 years; only 4% still believe that technology would not affect their day-to-day work.

With the advent of artificial intelligence, automation has in recent years been touted to replace up to 20 million jobs – especially in manufacturing – by 2030. Experts like Kai-Fu Lee, an author and expert on AI and former president of Google China, predicted that robots could replace up to 40% of jobs in 15 years.

However, there is a silver lining to the startling statistics. More than 80% of respondents in Singapore are already learning new skills to better understand or use technology; and 92% said that they would take the opportunity to better understand or use technology if it were available to them.

More optimistically, 53% of respondents indicated that they felt technology would bring about more opportunities than risks in the workplace, and 85% felt that technology will change their work for the better.

However, less than half of Singaporeans (44%) recognised that it is their own responsibility to upskill, and 32% felt that upskilling was the government’s responsibility-- higher than the global average of 22%.

Indeed, previous studies have shown that employees feel the responsibility to train and prepare them for the future of work falls on employers and the government. A survey in July by global corporate learning provider Skillsoft showed that Singaporean workers are eager to learn new skills to remain employable, but do not have the opportunities to do so in their companies. In fact, it was reported that nine in 10 were concerned that their companies were not preparing them to meet the future and remain employable.

Still, employers seems to have changed their tune.

In the PwC survey, some 76% of workers said their current employer was giving them the opportunity to improve their digital skills outside of their normal duties. Furthermore, in Singapore, agencies such as SkillsFuture have been formed to push for lifelong learning amongst the aging worker population.

Martijn Schouten, Singapore People & Organisation Leader, PwC South East Asia Consulting said employers are faced with a lot of complexity in understanding, managing and mitigating the impact of technology on the world of work.

“It’s the type of wicked problem that requires a wide variety of perspectives, deeper insight in the demand and supply for job roles, the capability to redesign structures and roles, an understanding of the skills and capabilities required to fulfil new and changing roles, and the ability to coach and motivate people to embrace learning and upskilling,” he said. “[It is] a challenging, yet very important problem to solve.”