With jobs becoming scarce, Pinoy seafarers urged to reskill

    Blow to seafaring. Repatriated seafarers are welcomed at airport by personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs in this May 2020 photo at the height of the lockdown due to the new coronavirus disease 2019 that has also taken a toll on the maritime industry. (DFA photo)

    With the future of work in maritime seen to “look very different from how it does today,” the Philippines and other suppliers of workers in the sector may see less job opportunities due to automation.

    In its Review of Maritime Transport 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development advised suppliers of global maritime shipping labor such as – by order of ranking – China, the Philippines, Indonesia and India to reskill and retrain their workers to prepare for the transformations that will arise due to advanced technologies and automation.

    “There will be less jobs onboard ships and more onshore jobs, requiring a more adaptable workforce,” the report said.

    The report said while demand for seafarers is expected to continue mounting up to 2040, it will not be in the same rate as before.

    The impact of technology and automation on the global maritime workforce, from 2020 until 2040, will vary, depending on the skills and tasks performed and workers’ demographic groups.

    Low and middle- skilled jobs (that is to say, support activities for deep- sea transport workers such as cargo handlers in ports, dockers, crane operators, and maintenance and repair workers) and ageing or higher-wage workforces face a greater risk of redundancy.

    By contrast, high-skilled occupations, such as ship captains and officers, are less prone to automation, with automation and technological applications being introduced to assist them in their work. Younger and lower-wage workforces are likely to witness a delay in the introduction of automation and new technologies.

    “The impact on labor markets will also depend on the level of readiness of countries to adopt new technologies and automation. Such readiness is defined as the capability to capitalize on the future, mitigate risks and challenges, and be resilient and agile in responding to unknown future shocks,” UNCTAD said.

    Readiness for automation is measured against five factors: innovation and technology, infrastructure quality, regulation and governance, human capital and skills, and business and investment.

    “Most developing countries will witness a slower adoption rate of technology and automation, although low and middle-skilled jobs in industrialized countries face a more substantial risk of disappearing due to automation probability. This is likely to be accompanied by lower capital investments and research and development expenditures, leading to smaller productivity increases and the risk of falling behind in terms of maritime sector capabilities and competitiveness,” the report noted.