NEDA urges Filipino workers to upskill, embrace AI tools

At the core of the Trabaho Para sa Bayan (TPB) Plan will be the adaption of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to the skills of Filipino workers as the current market demands technological advancements.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said that the plan will be centered on programs that will retool and upskill workers to take advantage of the new opportunities, particularly the AI tools.

These tools– varying from Grammarly to Chat GPT– should not be seen as something that would replace workers but an option that will enhance the individual’s employability, Balisacan said.

“What this Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act emphasize is the mismatches in the labor market because the technologies are evolving very fast and yet  the skills of our workers are lagging behind,” he told reporters at a press briefing on Tuesday, March 12.

Other advancements such as the mass-production tools could also be replicated in the industry sector.

Part of the TPB plan is to incentivize employers, industry stakeholders, and other private sector organizations that offer training, technology, knowledge and skills transfer, upskilling and reskilling enterprise-based training.

It may be in the form of apprenticeship, work immersion, or on-the-job training, and other similar activities.

The government has been promoting upskilling in various industries, marking a partnership with the US Agency for International Development for a the ​five-year ​program to strengthen innovation, workforce development, and entrepreneurship in Philippine colleges and universities.

Just recently, tech giant Microsoft announced that it will train 100,000 Filipino women to use the firm’s AI tools, including ones by OpenAI's large language models, to gain workplace skills and be able to recognize cybersecurity threats.

Lack of soft skills in digital age

Soft skills like collaborative problem-solving may also be used to work with the AI tools, however, Filipino workers were reported to lack in this area, a study from the Philippine Instititute for Development Studies found.

The authors identified these soft skills as transversal competencies (TVCs) – critical thinking and cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills– that hinder the country’s economic competitiveness and innovation potential.

They noted the need to equip schools with tools that will effectively teach them the TVCs.

Wage hike could lead to AI domination

On the other hand, the NEDA chief also stated that they remain adamant against an increase of minimum wage hikes, stating that it could lead to layoffs.

He also said that big companies may opt to utilize AI tools or automation to replace those workers who will be retrenched due to wage hikes.

“So, okay lang yung wages are rising but you know that wages are rising because the employment, the number of workers demanded by the market is so much higher than what is being supplied by the market,” he said.

Congress has recently pushed for the minimum wage to have a P100 increase, which was met with criticism from business sectors saying it will accelerate inflation as companies are expected to charge higher prices for commodities.