How automation is fueling Singapore’s gig economy
ABOUT 24 percent of work activities in Singapore could be displaced by automation by 2030, according to a McKinsey report titled ‘Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions In A Time Of Automation‘.
As Singapore restructures its economy and embraces robots, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and digital disruption, many workers will find the evolving job market challenging.
Globally, McKinsey’s report suggests, if adoption of automation is rapid, as many as 375 million workers (about 14 percent of the global workforce) will have to shift to new jobs or learn new skills.
Many workers in Singapore who are anticipating this change are turning to entrepreneurship or short-term, contract jobs. Singapore, along with Australia are the biggest markets for freelance work in the APAC region, Hays Singapore revealed.
Verlocal, a marketplace and booking management Software as a Service platform that helps freelancers and small business owners grow their business online, also believes that more workers are giving up full-time jobs in favor of self-employment and freelance positions.
By lowering the barrier to entry and making it easier than ever to manage their own business, Verlocal empowers local experts to offer activities, classes, events, services, workshops, and handmade products to consumers.
While some jobs are destroyed, new opportunities are being created – many of which have never existed before. Four new business owners who turned their back on full-time jobs to create a business using Verlocal share their views of automation disrupting their respective industries:
1. Monster Day Tour – TY Suen
Monster Day Tours was founded in late 2016 with an aim to provide a unique tour experience for all travelers. This led to the idea of creating a series of special interest tours in Singapore. Simple and straightforward, each tour is designed to provide a unique experience.
In the years leading up to this business, Suen worked as an auditor.
Do you think it’s possible that AI might displace your job in the near future?
Not completely, but most of it.
How do you feel about AI?
AI will displace jobs that are routine because these are the areas that AI thrives on. AI works by analyzing massive historical data. Therefore, the more repetitive this data is, the better is AI able process, learn, and replicate decisions. An auditor’s job has its fair share of routine processes which I believe, in time, will be replaced by AI.
Do you think AI will threaten your job?
Being a tour operator, a large part of the business requires a human touch – an aspect that AI currently struggles with. While we do use a lot of technology to makes our processes better, we don’t see AI as an immediate threat to our job.
2. Yume Patisserie – Amber Seah
Pastry Chef Amber Seah graduated from the NUS Business School and had a few years of marketing experience under her belt while working with an executive education events company. Recently, she quit her career and decided to become a pastry chef and business owner.
Do you think it is possible that AI might displace your (previous) job in the near future?
Definitely. We are moving into an age where processes are being automated and simplified. Segmentation as well as marketing layouts are largely automated and done by AI, and our jobs – even when it involves strategizing and planning, might be taken over.
How are Singaporeans responding to automation?
In this day and age, while people seem to have a preference for automated systems, using AI and what not, they also have an appreciation for handcrafted items. It’s to satiate a craving for the latter that we avoid mass producing or using technology in the kitchen.
How did your former colleagues feel about your career change?
Many of them are also considering ways to make themselves stand out in this day and age where AI may come to dominate the world.
How are you feel after quitting your job?
I feel happier and less ‘threatened’ since my job now requires 100 percent handicraft, which is why I feel like I have an advantage in the market.
3. Utter Studio – Jovan Medrano
Utter Studio is an art school that personalizes its classes to suit the student’s need for development. It helps develop a keen observation, curiosity, and patience. Utter Studio specializes in realistic drawing, acrylic painting, and “out-of-the box” activities.
Before setting up the business, Medrano worked as an electronics engineer, building machines that were run by software and robotics.
Did you think it’s possible AI might displace your (previous) job in the near future?
Maybe, but for in my previous line of work, maybe not very soon. I had a specialized kind of work. Which, in some cases, needed some unorthodox thinking. But, I believe a lot of mundane activities and tasks will be replaced by AI quite soon – maybe over the next five to 10 years.
How do you feel about job automation in your previous job?
Although I didn’t really feel threatened by AI in my last job, I feel it is more important to be proactive in whatever I do in the future.
How do you feel after quitting your job and opening a shop?
Honestly, I feel more secure. First of all, providing an education is definitely more satisfying than what I was doing previously. And being part of the creative movement is definitely the way to go.
From the industrial age, we’ve experienced the information age – where there was a boom of information intake caused by easy access to the internet.
Now, we’re moving into the knowledge age, wherein we are filtering information to suit our needs. Now more than ever, in this age, developing your creativity will be critical to differentiating yourself from the logical thinking robots and AI in the future.
4. Magic Ten – Mimi Liu
MAGICTEN is an art workshop for the artistic and non-artistic to explore imaginative, creative, and innovative ways to make beautiful things and create fun art. The studio offers a resin-making course to teach how the art of science (resin) works and what it is all about.
Prior to setting up Magic Ten, Mimi Liu was a food & beverage trader between Taiwan and Singapore.
Did you think it’s possible that AI might displace your old job in the near future?
AI is programmed to learn and develop skills, it can learn and compete, and could progress faster than a human child. In a matter of time, I’m sure AI can replace my old job.
How did you feel about it?
This is a deep question. I think, people (scientists, engineers, and programmers) designed AI because they could experiment on the possibilities. But they never knew how it would look like, they wanted to test if it could be done and if the result was correct. Their curiosity increased and it got better, and better.
In the beginning it was just a screen or objects doing work for us. Now AI has assumed the human form, and is being programmed to think, feel, and express like real people.
Further into the future, AI will work for us, and eventually work among us. They will advance and evolve with more learning skills and gain opinions, and converse among themselves. Thus, they will succeed faster than us.
How do you feel after quitting your job?
I do what I enjoy with my own biological hands and would like to continue teaching. In the future, I’ll consider an AI assistant because I know I can count on its intelligence to run a business. Despite that, the world is still run by people so let’s deal with them first.