Automation seen displacing Sri Lanka retail sector workers

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s retail sector is likely to be badly hit by technology adoption that automates many types of work and displace large numbers of workers, especially youth, a study by the International Labour Organization has said.

The retail sector plays a significant role for youth employment in developed and developing countries.

“Yet middle-skill formal sales jobs — such as shop floor and sales assistants —are vulnerable to displacement,”  said the report on future of work in Sri Lanka, done for the ILO by India’s Tandem Research.

“A large portion of Sri Lanka’s youth could bear the burden of these losses — in particular, rural youth moving out of agriculture and plantations, for whom retail was an easy stepping stone out of manual work.

“With the growth in e-commerce new markets will emerge, but, traditional retail jobs will no longer provide opportunities for social mobility for low-skilled youth.”

The largest employment in the service sector in Sri Lanka, occurred in wholesale and retail trade employing about 14 percent of the workforce.

However, with automation being most feasible in predictable physical activity and collection and processing of data, jobs within brick-and-mortar retail stores and supermarkets are at risk of displacement.

Such applications are already being seen in Amazon Go shops in the US, which have no cashiers or self-checkout lanes: customers simply ‘grab and go’ and goods are automatically registered in their Amazon Go account.

(COLOMBO, May 03, 2019-SB)





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