More than half of Hong Kong’s workforce believe that their jobs are under threat from the rapid growth of the digital economy, while over 40 per cent feel that they do not have the right skills to compete in it, a survey has found.
The survey was conducted by tech consultants IDC for Workday, a major provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, and it polled over 1,400 employees from eight Asia-Pacific countries to assess their attitudes towards the digital economy.
David Hope, president of Workday Asia-Pacific, said that manual jobs were the most at risk from digitalisation, such as sorting through job applicants’ CVs in the initial stages of the hiring process, and call centre operators.
“We hear all this terminology about how AI will impact the industry, but it will take time,” said Hope. “Transformation takes time because there is so much foundation work that needs to be done.”
The poll also showed that Hong Kong employees were the third unhappiest in the Asia-Pacific region after South Korea and Japan, with 23 per cent saying they were unsatisfied with their job.
A quarter of local respondents said they planned to leave their current employer within a year, with the biggest factors being wages, work-life balance and a lack of career prospects because of digitalisation. Thirty per cent of Hong Kong workers also said they were not getting adequate training in digital skills.
Hope said that the next step is for firms to provide very proactive training and education in digital skills “to make employees feel empowered and not as though they were being left behind”.
Hong Kong’s digital economy was set to be worth at least US$9 billion by 2020 and about 60 per cent of Asia-Pacific countries’ GDP excluding Japan will be digitalised, the survey said.
As part of the government’s long-term vision to transform Hong Kong into a smart city rivalling the likes of Singapore, Shenzhen and Tokyo, HK$50 billion was set aside in this year’s budget to develop the city into a leading centre of technology and innovation.
However, many Hong Kong companies have been slow to take up robotic automation technologies in the first place despite their vast cost-saving potential. Nearly 80 per cent of companies in the city were either unaware of financial automation or had no plans to adopt them, according to a March survey from KPMG China and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Hong Kong.
Robotic process automation is an emerging form of digital labour powered by software robots or artificial intelligence, which mimic human actions relating to a wide variety of business transactions.
Hope said that Hong Kong’s economy could potentially lose out if firms do not digitalise fast enough but was optimistic that they speed up its adoption. “For a lot of industries all over the world, if they don’t take these new digital opportunities, they will lose out. Hong Kong is no different, but it has always been very adaptive and typically pretty savvy to market demands. I’m confident that Hong Kong has what it takes to adapt to the new economy.”
Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, research director at IDC Asia-Pacific, said digital transformation is creating impact on a macroeconomic scale.
“Every growing enterprise must become a ‘digital native’ in the way its executives and employees think and act, to challenge digital disrupters and become successful players in the digital economy, or may not survive.”