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How Job Automation Will Reshape Corporate Office Demand in Asia Pacific

By Ada Choi, Liz Hung and Jimmy Ong
By Ada Choi, Liz Hung and Jimmy Ong

How automation will impact office based employment in Asia Pacific and examines the consequences for corporate office demand across the region.

Technology has long been a major driver and disruptor of workplace and workforce change. During the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the creation of the factory system, which used powered machinery and centralised workplaces to mass-produce goods, rendered many craft workers obsolete. At the same time, however, it made products cheaper for general households and created new job opportunities in the manufacturing sector. In Asia Pacific, rapid industrialisation and urbanisation has transformed the composition of the regional workforce over the past 40 years. Employment in primary industry has fallen from 64% of total employment in 1980 to 32% in 2016.

How Job Automation Will Reshape Corporate Office Demand in Asia Pacific Figure 1

The latest wave of technological evolution, which includes robotics and artificial intelligence, is expected to have a far more profound impact on jobs and the nature of work. New advances have led to the development of intelligent machines and enabled computers to self-improve by deep learning. The Internet of Things – the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects – is enabling machines to perform a greater variety and number of tasks, at speeds and levels of complexity far beyond human capability. That said, the ability of a computer to truly think ‘freely’ or to have a creative approach to work is still many years away, if it ever proves possible at all.

The coming years will see the rapid automation of manual labour and customer service jobs, forcing millions to learn new skills or change roles entirely. A 2013 study by Oxford University estimated that 47% of total jobs in the U.S. are at risk of at least partial automation. While many of these roles will be blue collar jobs, office-based employment, ranging from non-professional administrative functions to higher value and more complex roles such as lawyers, fund managers and sales managers, will also be affected.

Taken at face value, the automation of a large number of office jobs implies that companies will require fewer employees and, consequently, smaller office space. However, the reality is more nuanced and complex, and will likely see most jobs evolve in different ways to harness the respective strengths of humans and technology.

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Henry Chin
Henry Chin, Ph.D.
Head of Research
Asia Pacific
+852 2820 8160
+852 2810 0830
Ada Choi
Ada Choi, CFA
Executive Director
Asia Pacific
+852 2820 2871
+852 2810 0830
Phil Rowland
Phil Rowland
Chief Executive Officer
Asia Pacific
Global Workplace Solutions
+852 2820 8122
+852 2810 0830
Manish Kashyap
Manish Kashyap
Regional Managing Director
Asia Pacific
Advisory & Transaction Services
+65 6326 1220
+65 6225 1987