Korea well-prepared for 4th Industrial Revolution

By Kang Seung-woo

Korea’s labor market is least likely to be affected by the Fourth Industrial Revolution among OECD member countries, thanks to highly educated workers and pre-emptive investments in automation, according to state-run think tanks, Thursday.

Citing a recent OECD analysis, the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) said in a joint report that on average 9 percent of jobs across 21 OECD countries are at a high risk of being automated. The risk for Korea, however, stood at 6 percent – the lowest among the member countries included in the report. High-risk jobs refer to those in which at least 70 percent of the tasks can be automated.

The figures for Germany, Austria, Spain and Britain were well above the average, with Austria marking the highest 12 percent.

While the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about to hit Korea, the nation has been regarded as being ill-prepared for the changes that are expected to kill jobs.

However, the report said the nation’s upfront investments in automation and its highly educated workers will prevent massive job losses.

It showed Korea has 531 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, compared with Britain’s 71, Australia’s 86 and Switzerland’s 119, which indicates the nation has already seen automation making great progress. It means this will offset possible negative effects from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Changes in technology have always given birth to new technology and job openings to allow continued growth in the number of jobs,” the report said.

“We can witness a pay raise and work-hour reduction if we grasp the job specifications needed by new technology and come up with a relevant education and training system.”

In the face of the upcoming industrial revolution, powered by machine learning and big data, Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said last month the government will pursue state-run R&D funds and deregulation to improve the nation’s economic and social systems and make them more suited for changes.

In addition, the government has launched a strategy committee comprising government officials, experts and business leaders to spearhead the policy-making process covering the economy, education, technology and industry.

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