DANANG, Vietnam: It is important to ensure that the economic benefits of digitalisation and globalisation are “fairly distributed”, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Nov 11).
He made these comments as he met leaders at the Vietnamese coastal city of Danang for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
Mr Lee said this can be done through social transfers and investments in social policies, such as through education, healthcare, training and human resources, which will “allow people to take home some consolation”, and mitigate the “winner takes all” effect of technology disruption.
He added that while the digital age has generated “exuberance”, it has also caused “anxiety amongst industries and workers”, with middle managers and professionals worrying about how automation and artificial intelligence could be displacing workers.
“These are the real political pressures which we have to deal with,” he said, urging countries to move forward and adapt to digitalisation.
This “cannot be entirely laissez-faire” and requires efficient and fair economies, as well as free markets and private enterprise, Mr Lee said.
He urged governments to play an active role by providing the right environment and incentives to help businesses and workers adjust to the digital economy; by setting the rules that will “allow innovation and new ideas to germinate”, as well as to equip workers with the tools to upgrade their skills, so that they can get new jobs.
Singapore, he added, has done so by introducing the SkillsFuture for the Digital Workplace initiative – a scheme that conducts courses for workers to equip them with digital skills that match their abilities and employment outcomes.