‘Barbados must prepare for automated workforce’

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is warning that some careers will soon become obsolete and computers and other forms of technology will replace tens of millions of jobs performed by people, and Barbados must be ready when this happens.

The minister told the inaugural Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) Student Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this week it was for this reason that Barbadians should focus on more than just academic qualifications, but should also concentrate of developing skills that would make them stand out among their international peers.

The minister said it was difficult to predict how soon some jobs would disappear. However, she said international research has suggested that up to 30 per cent of the work done by people could soon be automated, with workers such as office clerks, truck drivers, factory workers and accountants likely to be among the first to be affected.

“They [researchers] suggest that 45 per cent of work activities and about US$2 trillion in wages could be lost because of automation,” she said, without quoting the source of any of the studies.

One such study, she said, had also found that 50 per cent of jobs in manufacturing, 73 per cent in food service and accommodation and 53 per cent in retailing could be automated soon, “and if computer can understand speech about 66 per cent [of jobs] in finance and insurance would go”.

“The first jobs they say would be affected would be middle skills like bookkeepers, clerks and assembly line workers,” she told the Barbados at 50 – Reaching Beyond This Horizon accountants’ week event, at which ICAB student members engaged in discussions on a variety of topics, ranging from cyber fraud to how to achieve a balance between work and their private lives.

Encouraging participants to engage in life-long learning, Byer-Suckoo said the concern about machines taking over some jobs was nothing new.

It was for this reason, she said, her ministry was in the process of developing  modern employment and career counselling services that are relevant to both employers and jobseekers; and was training staff to deliver quality employment guidance and counselling services, while ensuring the necessary technological resources were up to date.

The minister added that Government was moving
ahead with plans for more virtual meetings among the ministries and departments in order to save time and
help cut costs, as well as establishing a knowledge management system for the storage and easy retrieval of information.

Byer-Suckoo added that her ministry was engaging stakeholders to ensure Barbadians were prepared to deal with the changes that are coming.

“There is a requirement of soft skills, people skills, leadership ability, time management skills, discipline, self-motivation and all those kinds of things the employers are looking for and we as providers of labour have to ensure that workers and potential workers have these along with their academic or technical skills,” she said.

13 Responses to ‘Barbados must prepare for automated workforce’

  1. jrsmith November 12, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    This woman is living in la,la land.. automation was around from the early seventies, this is how our politicians try the fool playing game , some careers would soon be obsolete and computer will replace tens of millions of jobs, why is she worrying we have no jobs anywhere in Barbados..
    We only right now need about 2000 jobs plus the upgrading and modernizing of our total infrastructure…we already have computers , but lacking in the simplest use/form of easy technology which most of the world has introduced……

  2. Mark Infinity Thompson
    Mark Infinity Thompson November 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Work force? Work farse’.., to do what??

    Continue to wipe the rump of tourists?

    What Barbados needs to do is to compete with South America and India for call/support centers. How can countries that don’t speak English.., have instructors come and teach English for call support for English/American/Canadian consumers?

    The power distribution system is failing so alternative energy/storage is a must and a whole new infrastructure that can be created.

    Bajans stop letting these politicians continue with their talking points as the employment spirals downward cyclicly and taxes get higher and higher..

    I love my Bimshire., but politics got the place in a state of discombobulation..

  3. Hal Austin November 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Plse get the good minister to explain. Dropping these bolders is not enough.

  4. Angus B Post
    Angus B Post November 12, 2016 at 3:01 pm


  5. jus me November 12, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Cos she ent no damned good fuh nuffin else.
    How she ever get the Job anyways??

    Has she dye her hair from BLONDE??!!!
    YEAH ,das gotta be it.

  6. Santini More
    Santini More November 12, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    I am ready for the automated MPs. The machines can hardly do a worse job than these bunch of heartless jonnies we have in power now.

  7. jus me November 12, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Ms Sucker roo said
    WE as providers of labour have to ensure that workers and potential workers have these along with their academic or technical skills,” she said

    AHA!! So there we have it.
    She see, herself as a PIMP for us LABOURERS.!!

    She of course , as now ,will sit back on her P>>>>Y and collect the big PIMPS salary

  8. Christine Carol-ann Ceecee Waithe
    Christine Carol-ann Ceecee Waithe November 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Money in certain work place need raising…

  9. Christine Carol-ann Ceecee Waithe
    Christine Carol-ann Ceecee Waithe November 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Every thing going up except the wages

  10. Loretta Griffith November 12, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    My problem with this minister is the draconian laws that she is implementing. Wish she along with the union would promote more productivity. Just now they will have to become the majority employer as the law abiding ones who are trying to keep this economy afloat have one foot nearer to Dodds because of these
    excessive labour laws.
    Could you imagine borrowing foreign dollars to pay our debts and then turn around and offer all these generous perks, like three weeks vacation after one year of work, when apparently it takes five or more years to get three weeks in the USA. As for severance if you get 12 weeks pay in total you get a lot. Quite a bit has to change around here or we will all sink.

  11. Hal Austin November 17, 2016 at 3:57 am

    What is the nation, more particularly the Ministry of Labour, doing to prepare the nation for this era of automation?

  12. Hal Austin November 18, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    This is an important topic, which goes right to the heart of trade unionism. But our militant, strike-prone trade unionists are so busy holding the government to ransom that they cannot take part in a debate on their members’ future.

  13. Donild Trimp November 23, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Don’t think you have the infrastructure in Barbados for autonomous trucks Dr. Suckoo.

    Barbados will need a complete overhaul of its infrastructure before truck drivers become obsolete and I do not see that happening within the next 150 years.

    You have one fickle industry in Barbados (the tourist industry) that employs half of Barbados and the Government that employs the other half.

    What jobs this envisioned automation is going to replace in Barbados? A hundred jobs in the Banking sector?


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