Robot workers are rising, especially in the east and how you can upskill for it

The World Economic Forum recently identified South Korea as the country with the highest density of robot workers.

By U2B Staff 

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In the age of digital transformation, traditional careers are already being taken over by digital or robot workers and this is shift occurs across sectors and across industries, whether the job entails any level of technical skills or knowledge.

As technology takes over most industries, even roles that are predominantly in charge of recruitment and hiring, which are traditionally controlled by humans will face automation, given the development of AI and other technology.


The World Economic Forum recently identified the countries with the highest density of robot workers, as a result of an increasingly automated world and found that South Korea leads the way in their use of robots, with 855 installed per 10,000 employees.

South Korea’s robot workforce is leaps and bounds ahead as globally there are now 113 installed industrial robots per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing sector, an increase from 74 just four years ago.

South Korea’s adoption of a large robot workforce can be attributed to the continued installation of high volume robots in the electronics and electric sectors.

While China is one of the countries recording the highest growth levels in industrial automation, it reports a much lower robot density than South Korea.

The report stated “China is eager to expand its level of automation in the coming years and it has been targeting a place in the world’s top-10 nations for robot density by 2020. It had a density rate of 25 units in 2013 and that grew to 97 by 2017. In 2019, that figure had grown quite considerably once again to 187.”

Germany and Japan both key players in the automotive industry and they have similar robot density levels of around 350 per 10,000 workers.

The adoption in Japan is surprisingly low, as it is one of the main players in industrial robotics, accounting for over half of the global supply.

Data from the International Federation of Robotics reveals that the pace of industrial automation is accelerating across much of the developed world, particularly in the automotive, electrical and electronics, as well as the metal industries.

The data states that the automotive industry remains the largest adopter of robots globally with a share of 33% of the total supply in 2017 which reflects a sales increase of 22%.

The use of robots in the automotive industry centers around its use in the manufacturing of passenger cars, which has become increasingly complex in the past ten years.

A substantial proportion of the production processes nowadays require automation solutions using robots.


Focus on human-skills to remain relevant as robots take over

The emergence of industry 4.0 will give way to the birth of new industries and the expansion of existing ones through technology.

In fact, human-skills, something humans are inherently better at than their robot-counterparts, should be given more emphasis. These include developing the right skills to approach problems from various perspectives, cultivate and exploit creativity, be active and fluent communicators, and exhibit high levels of critical thinking.

These ‘human’ skills will eventually become valuable assets for new entrants into a future workforce and will set them apart from the rest in industries that are increasingly being taken over by automated technology.

In his article for the WEF 2020, Professor Farnam Jahanian highlighted the need for businesses to explore more pathways to allow access to higher education and relative skills for fresh talent.

“For example, the private sector could rethink human capital development as a long-term investment, and focus on leadership development and vocational programme design,” he explained.

It is equally important for businesses to upskill their existing talent pool to ensure employees can build up relevant skill sets to allow them to adapt to the evolving job market.

Businesses can take advantage of the digitisation of further education to attain this. As more and more online micro-courses are becoming available, companies and employees can pick and choose the skills most relevant to them and pursue these courses according to their own time.