Top 10 careers that are dying a slow death

Yes, the robotic age is soon dawning on us and this will take away some of our jobs, some of them which are in-demand currently are soon endangered owing to rapid technology adoption and innovation in automation.

These job roles that require manual intervention will soon be replaced by automation of day-to-day tasks, thus allowing professionals across industries to save time, maximise cost-efficiencies, save on training and mentorship costs, and help reduce the costs associated with attrition rampant in certain service industries.

Here are top 10 careers dying slow death in Singapore and globally by 2020 and beyond:

1. Travel agent/Travel agencies

In the recent few years, when was the last time you made booking for vacation or business travel through a travel agent? This career once in-demand has already gone extinct with IoT and rise of mobile e-commerce travel booking platforms. Bleak growth prospects for those looking to pursue a career in this field and if too keen, we advise you to specialise in corporate travel or leisure travel etc.

2. Switchboard operator

This career option has eventually had its slow death, so it's time to switch and swap choices to seek newer job roles and avenues wherein your skillsets can be optimally utilised. Automated systems to answer phones with auto-responders and better crisp communication mediums such as emails, this job is no longer in demand - wonder if this still exists in small firms? Perhaps place your wise bet, since it's not a well paying one indeed.

3. Newspaper reporter

This is one profession that requires you to be highly knowledgeable, on your toes most times with no time for private life and qualifications sometimes are required up to Masters Degree as well. Declining advertising revenue in print, radio and television mediums has seen negative impact on the media industry as a whole, but for the news reporting business in specifics - this is not really good news or a thoughtful career choice.

The pay scale offered is less; expectations are high, no work-life balance and declining need for such professionals, owing to vast expanse and reach of social media coverage of events, news and reports promptly.

4. Alternative medicine specialists

Holistic healers and alternative medicine specialists such as acupuncturists, hypnotherapists and specialised homeopathy services now seem like a luxurious profession seeking indulgences from customers. These professionals are no longer in need, except for the growing spa industry in Asia Pacific that can create jobs for such talent.

5. Office and administrative support staff

Administrative support staff such as receptionists, clerks, telecallers and services of an office boy is soon no longer required, owing to automated technologies that have already replaced manual intervention. Use of auto responders to receive calls automatically and respond to messages from clients and customers promptly with the appropriate coding system in place, money counting machines have taken over the officer jobs and need for clerks to manage records on paper.

Today, everything can be managed online and complete database can be stored on the cloud to make it easily accessible for employees anywhere, anytime with preset employee permissions granted for access.

6. Telemarketer or door-to-door sales professional

The role of a telemarketer or door-to-door sales professional to sell products or services is no longer required as most of sale operations and purchase of product, today happens on certified e-commerce platforms such as Ebay, Amazon and Flipkart.

Also sites such as Olx and Quikr have taken over the space of buying products on second sale online. Marketing today is gaining traction on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Advertorials to reach out to specific target audiences with relevant adverts based on deriving insights from market research and data analytics.

7. Coders and programmers for apps

As companies in Singapore are learning to meet their business needs, by getting apps coded at much faster pace by outsourcing work to contract/gig workers in foreign countries wherein wages are low, they do not feel the need to employ Singaporean programmers on full-time basis.

As such these professionals have to be prepared for redundancies created unintentionally owing to technological advancements and increasing global workforce available to work on contract/temporary basis.

Also initiatives such as the Skills Future programme initiated by the Ministry of Manpower, Singapore ensures that Singapore citizens are able to find new jobs and adapt well in a tech-savvy fast-paced environment that demands flexible workforce abreast of latest technological advancements.

8. Marketing professionals 

Marketing jobs are on a decline in Singapore at -9 per cent, according to the latest labour statistics by Monster Employment Index (MEI). Online hiring in this industry has fallen by 6 per cent year-over-year, thus showcasing a negative year-on-year growth between September 2014 and September 2015.

9. Librarian

Will this job be soon off the shelf or towards the brink of ending of its shelf life? With online library evolving and e-books gaining popularity, it's time to rethink if you want to make a career choice silencing one and all, and be a decibel diva of the school or institution.

For those who enjoy reading books the old fashioned way, the role of a new digital archivist, tech-savvy with searches on Internet, and helpful websites with know-how on relevant keywords will soon replace the role of a traditional librarian.

10. Cashiers and book keepers

The role of cashier or an accounting clerk will soon be replaced by self check-out machines at consumer outlets to facilitate easy payment on purchase. Also since most of the purchases today are made on e-commerce platforms, the companies are investing efforts to make most of the e-commerce and m-commerce boom to target specific consumers based on research and data findings.

According to a WSJ report, companies such as Verizon, Pilot Travel and Game Stop have started using software to automate corporate book keeping tasks. These companies now need only 10 clerks to pay suppliers, thus eliminating the need for 80 more staffers to get the same job done.

Workplace of the future and impact on job roles

Revolution has been observed recently in the way workplaces function for the next decade. According to prediction by experts in a report titled, Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace by CBRE and Genesis it says that, "50 per cent of occupations today will no longer exist by 2025 as people will take up more creative professions. This means that jobs will evolve and so will real estate development."

"The next fifteen years will see a revolution in how we work, and a corresponding revolution will necessarily take place on how we plan and think about workplaces. The dramatic changes in how people work that we have seen in the past two decades will continue evolving over the next 15 years, opening up new opportunities for companies to create value and enhance employee performance through innovative workplace strategies and designs," said Peter Andrew, Director of Workplace Strategy for CBRE Asia Pacific.

The report also clearly states that, "Losing occupations does not necessarily mean losing jobs - just changing what people do."

Some of the key findings highlighted in the report that will impact the future of work and workplaces are:

- Artificial Intelligence will transform how businesses work and boost active involvement of employees at work for better collaboration between departments.

- Process work, customer work and vast swathes of middle management will simply disappear. 50 per cent of occupations today will no longer exist in 2025.

- New jobs will require creative intelligence, social and emotional intelligence and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence. These jobs will be immensely more fulfilling than today's jobs.

- Workspaces with row of desks as we know them today will be completely redundant. Not because they are not fit for purpose, but simply because that purpose no longer exists.

Further findings according to a report by The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs testifies the fact that, "Global workforce is expected to experience significant churn between job families and functions. Current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labour market changes over the period 2015-2020, with a total loss of 7.1 million jobs-two thirds of which are concentrated in routine white collar office functions, such as Office and Administrative roles-and a total gain of 2 million jobs, in Computer and Mathematical and Architecture and Engineering related fields."

Manufacturing and production roles are also expected to see a further bottoming out but are also anticipated to have relatively good potential for up skilling, redeployment and productivity enhancement through technology rather than pure substitution.

According to Aaron Smith, co-author of the 2014 report by Pew Research found 52 per cent of experts in artificial intelligence and robotics are optimistic about the future and believe there would still be enough jobs in the next few decades. These optimists envision "a future in which robots and digital agents do not displace more jobs than they create."

Emerging job roles in APAC: Vision 2020 and beyond

While many job categories and functions are going extinct with advancements in automation technologies and processes, there are also new emerging job roles being created at the other end of the spectrum, calling for demand of tech-savvy professionals, researchers, analysts and scientists.

Some of the key job roles to be soon in demand requiring skilled manpower in Asia Pacific markets are:

- Data Analysts - Companies are now working towards deriving insights from data collected to practically engage with employees throughout the work process. This trend will soon help foster better employee engagement and talent retention.

- While tele-marketers and telemarketing as a function will no longer exists, there is an overall industry need for specialised sales representatives possessing industry knowledge, experience and qualification to support sale of products and services through online marketing channels.

- A significant need can also be observed in Energy, Media and Entertainment industry, for a new type of senior managers who possess the relevant technological know-how, skills and experience to steer the organisation's course towards its goals by carefully manoeuvring its way through technology disruptions that co-exist in a fast paced business environment.

- Role of a Chief Productivity Officer to drive efficiencies, performance and change management in an organisation will be the new key role soon gaining prominence and traction. This is now experiencing dearth of talented professionals today.

- Need for Human Technology Integration Specialist who would teach people on how to leverage the vast array of technologies available and improve their quality of lives. There should be a holistic approach constituted by a team of experts who will closely examine the work patterns, figure out the gaps, mentor and train workforce with latest technologies and get them conversant with the advantages of new mediums, such as to save time, costs and improve overall efficiency.

In conclusion

"The ability to attract and retain top talent will be the top competitive advantage for businesses in 2030, followed by innovation, adaptability, and technology adoption. The design and organisation of the new workplace will be key to achieving this," said Martin Chen, Chief Operating Officer of Genesis.

The business leaders who are abreast of these technology disruptions and aware of the looming challenges in workplace dynamics towards vision 2020 and beyond, will be slow to respond and act decisively.

Future workforce planning and change management rank high priority on most company's corporate agenda for the next decade, not just in APAC but globally as well. To manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with future-proof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base.

Businesses will need to put talent development and future workforce strategy front and centre to their growth. Firms can no longer be passive consumers of ready-made human capital. They require a new mindset to meet their talent needs and to optimize social outcomes.

Ben Chew is business director and TBC HR Consulting (S) Pte Ltd. He is a serial entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in the HR/Recruitment space. He currently has several HR tech projects, including a successful boutique recruitment business based in Singapore. Ben is also involved in many community initiatives in the local startup ecosystem - one such project is Startup Jobs Asia which aim to be the voice for startup hiring within Asia.