The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


Technology: A Threat to Your Career, or an Opportunity?

By Paul Dupuis

According to Randstad’s latest labor survey, conducted in 33 countries worldwide, over 71 percent of respondents believe technology has a major impact on their jobs, and over 73 percent feel there are increased opportunities as a result of new technology.

Just as tablets and smartphones are beginning to push computers aside, the Internet is replacing conventional analog information. Traditional resources such as the yellow pages, affectionately known as the “phone book” in the United States, along with several well-known news and paper publications have been replaced by online subscriptions and media apps.

This move from analog to digital seems to be a natural trend, but who would have predicted it 20 years ago? Do we really know how many jobs have been replaced or created by technology over the past 20 years?

One example of a traditional job being replaced by technology is the bank teller. It wasn’t too long ago when the bank teller was our one-stop solution provider for our banking tasks, no matter how simple or complicated the request.

Currently, enter a bank and you will be automatically guided by a human attendant to a machine to handle your requests. In some cases this attendant was a former bank teller. Virtually all banking functions and needs can be processed thru the ATM, or for those who prefer the full technology experience, online banking is another convenient option. No need for a long wait in line or small talk.

With technology affecting everyone in the workplace, regardless of industry and function, it’s time to look in the mirror—will your job still exist in five years?

Globally, over 24 percent of Randstad’s survey respondents believe their jobs will disappear in the coming years due to the rise of technology.

This concern is more serious in Asian countries: in India, 60 percent of respondents fear a loss of work due to technology; in China, 36 percent; in Hong Kong, 40 percent; and in Malaysia, 41 percent.

Singapore is the exception, where as few as 29 percent of respondents are scared of losing their jobs due to being replaced by technology.

Japan is no exception; over 36 percent of local respondents see technology impacting their jobs in the future. What is strikingly different in Japan compared with other Asian countries is that only 48 percent of people here see technology as having a positive impact on their jobs.

This percentage is the lowest worldwide; in India it is 92 percent; in China, 89 percent; in Hong Kong, 82 percent; in Malaysia, 88 percent; and in Singapore, 78 percent.

Clearly, Japanese workers feel threatened by technology—intriguing results considering Japan’s historical position as a global leader in developing and exporting technology to the world.

We all need to make an effort to stay close to the technology curve. Advancements, upgrades, and new tools are being released and put into play on a daily basis.

The evolution of technology will improve productivity, but history shows that it will not translate into an overall increase in the number of jobs; rather, these advancements are largely focused on increasing efficiency, and ultimately reducing headcount.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare recently released the results of its survey on the ratio of job openings to applications. The data shows a clear trend, namely a reduction in the number of clerical and production-related roles.

It’s safe to say these types of positions, which can be replaced in large part by technology, are already on their way to becoming irrelevant.

Meanwhile, we see many opportunities ahead. While it is true that technology is replacing some jobs, in fact, most businesses are built on relationships, whether virtual or face-to-face. Ultimately, building relationships requires a human touch.

It’s clear that technology will indeed continue to be an important part of our daily lives at work. The key is to embrace the trend and stay ahead of the learning curve, while also focusing on your unique skill set and differentiators.

It’s important to view technology as a tool that enhances what you already have in your personal toolbox and helps you add more value to a business.

A solid understanding and competency in the hard skills (technology) combined with a dynamic suite of soft skills (human touch) makes a candidate especially attractive in the competitive market for talent. •