As Adidas announces a new robot shoe factory, an ILO report says up to 90% of workers in south-east Asia could face unemployment due to automation
The jobs of nearly 90% of garment and footwear workers in Cambodia and Vietnam are at risk from automated assembly lines – or “sewbots” – according to a new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
There are 9 million people, mostly young women, dependent upon jobs in textiles, garments, and footwear within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic area, which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. These are the workers the ILO identifies as most susceptible to losing their jobs to the new robot workforce.
Sewbots are unlikely to appear in factories in Asia, the report says, but will be installed in destination markets like Europe and the US. It is such a big threat that the ILO urges Asean countries to start planning to diversify to “avoid considerable setbacks in development”.
Garment workers already tend to be low waged, overworked and susceptible to injury from lung ailments, to lost fingers, to being killed in fires and factory collapses. Adding to this list is now the risk of being replaced by faster, cheaper and less rebellious sewbots.