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Over Half of Southeast Asian Workers Could Lose Jobs in 20 Years: ILO Study

Over half of Southeast Asian workers risk losing their jobs to automation in the next 20 years, according to a recent study by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

As many as 137 million workers, or 65% of the salaried workforce in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, could be made redundant, reports Reuters.

The region’s 9 million garment workers will be particularly hard hit, the study says, with 86% of workers in Vietnam’s textile, clothing and footwear industries at high risk of being laid off. In Cambodia, that figure rises as high as 88%, while 64% of Indonesian garment workers face a similar fate.

Deborah France-Massin, director of ILO’s bureau for employers’ activities, told Reuters the key to surviving the rapid changes in this and other industries is by training local employees to work alongside the new technology.

"Countries that compete on low-wage labor need to reposition themselves. Price advantage is no longer enough," she said, according to the news outlet.

Thanks to a series of trade deals, Vietnam has seen record investment in its textile and footwear industries. The country is now the second-largest garment supplier to the United States behind China.

In addition to the textile, clothing and footwear industries, the ILO report also found workers in the automotive, electronics, business process outsourcing and retail sectors at risk.

[Photo by Flickr user ILO in Asia and the Pacific]