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Friday, 23 December 2016

Dr Mahathir Says 3D Jobs Are Good Targets for Innovation

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad , former prime minister of Malaysia.

A recent interview

In a recent interview, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed spoke with social media website, iMoney. The topic at hand was about spending, because Tun M (the popular short form used by Malaysians to refer to Tun Dr Mahathir) was all hot and bothered about how the country's money is being spent. A certain politician had told Tun M, "Cash is King", and it may have been this statement that rankled Tun M's increasing soreness with that certain politician (whose name shall not be mentioned).

In most of the interview, which was split over two parts, Tun M spoke about how money should be spent. It is no secret that the 91-year old ex-premier has struck out with a new political party, but its fortunes are yet to be known, seeing as its leadership has not yet been tested in the general elections.

That's probably not important for this piece anyway, since we will eventually know who wins the upcoming elections. And it's not happening any time soon. (It could drag on until August 2018, by my reckoning.)

What he said

Tun M said that Malaysians should invest money wisely. The interviewer asked him, "Please share an observations that Malaysians can benefit from." His reply doesn't seem to be aimed at any person in particular, but when he makes a point, you can't miss it.

Tun M said:

Well, if you go to Japan, you will find that the people who work as waiters or in the services industry are Japanese. While there may be some foreigners, mostly the work is done by the Japanese. Their economy is huge and they need manpower but the manpower is domestically provided.

But in Malaysia, we are unwilling to acquire the skills, or the willingness to work, as a result foreign workers come in. Foreign workers, when they come, they earn money and they must send back their money to their own homes, so that causes an outflow of money.

Now, if we have Malaysians doing all the work – and they need not be dirty or dangerous because we can find new ways of keeping places clean and all that – I think then we will not have a need for foreign workers.

We may run short of certain things, but we don’t need so many foreign workers. It is estimated we have almost 7 million foreign workers legal or illegal. Why do they come here? Because there are job opportunities. If there are no job opportunities, they wouldn’t come.

I mean, you can’t find Malaysians migrating to some of the other Asean countries because there is no opportunity.

So, there are opportunities in Malaysia but you are not taking up those opportunities and you give them to others. Then you complain, “We are losing opportunities for ourselves.”

You want the opportunities? You must be willing to do the work. You must be willing to be trained and upgrade your skills, your command of English, and so on.

In the case of dangerous, dirty work or 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult), those that rich people try to avoid, the Japanese resolved this by devising automation and robots.

For example, they can programme everything and leave the machine to do the job. They can go home and the next morning, everything is done. That’s the way to go.

Invest your money in ways to produce things more efficiently and by doing less dangerous work. You don’t have to do things with your hands… all these things you don’t have to do because the robots can do it for you.

The portion that most struck me was the part he said about 3D Jobs, what he called the dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs. The Japanese, said the sagely old Tun M, devised means to get the 3D jobs done, using technology.

In fact, the Japanese used technology not only to resolve 3D jobs, they also apply technology for entertainment, pleasure, life support, daily work, transportation, and so on and so forth. (I probably didn't need to tell you that.) What surprises me is that the Japanese don't manufacture the best-selling mobile phone. But then again, that's probably not a technology problem, it's probably more of a marketing problem, due to their language skills.

So what are the 3D Jobs that Tun Dr Mahathir spoke about?

There is a wealth of information available online on 3D jobs, but one of the best explanations of 3D jobs comes from none other than trusty old Wikipedia.

"Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning" (often "Dirty, Dangerous and Demanding" or "Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult"), also known as the 3Ds, is an American neologism derived from the Asian concept, and refers to certain kinds of labor often performed by unionized blue-collar workers.

The term originated from the Japanese expression 3K: kitanai, kiken, kitsui (respectively 汚い "dirty", 危険 "dangerous", きつい "demanding"), and has subsequently gained widespread use, particularly regarding labor done by migrant workers.

Any task, regardless of industry, can qualify as a 3Ds job. These jobs can bring higher wages due to a shortage of willing qualified individuals and in many world regions are filled by migrant workers looking for higher wages.

There's another "D" that wasn't covered here: Drudgery. But it's probably the same thing.

Agriculture, manufacturing and construction are some industries that are perceived to involve "3D Jobs". Can technology save the day?

Here's another description of the 3D jobs from the perspective of the Malaysian Employers' Federation (MEF):
MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said Malaysians typically avoid working in sectors like agriculture or any industry that involves manual labour because society does not view them as highly-respected career choices.

“Malaysians shun 3D jobs not because of low wages. The 3D jobs are looked down socially and people doubt the 3D jobs are given any recognition,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

He said in order to encourage more locals into 3D sectors, these industries must be modernised and mechanised, and must provide better job incentives.

“We can encourage locals to perform the 3D jobs. However the way the jobs are performed needs to be transformed.

“Greater mechanisation and modernisation needs to be introduced and implemented. Government, employers, trade union and employees need to work closer to transform the way we perform our works in the 3D sector,” he added.

How to find ideas for 3D Job Innovations

If, having read the above, you feel chuffed and you want to do something to help those workers in the 3D jobs, you may consider innovating something to help them.

Obviously, some research skills are required. I have spoken to some successful inventors before. Before creating any "solutions", you need to narrow down the industry. Visit the workplace, speak to people. If you are an inventor with any registered patents to your name, you can offer your services as a "solution provider" through new innovations. If you're not yet an inventor, you can also offer your services as a consultant.

Sometimes people are sensitive when a new fellow comes poking around, looking at their workplace. They wonder who you are. Income tax department? Intruder? Competitor? You'll have to show them just who you are: An innovator.

If you manage to overcome the initial hurdle of getting let into the premises, the next step is to ask, what are the problematic jobs in this place? What are the most difficult parts of the work carried out here? What do people complain about the most in the course of their work? Have any of the workers ever suggested a change in any part of the work? Why was there no action taken?

Then it's time to observe the workers get things done. Watching how people work is really part of the innovation game. You need to see how they do things in order to know, what they are really trying to accomplish. Perhaps many steps are involved, and some could be automated, replaced, or done away with entirely ... what do you see in your mind's eye? This is called the "fresh eyes effect", where somebody who encounters something for the first time asks the inevitable question: Why do they do it like that? That is the question which begins to trigger your search for alternative ways to do the same thing.

And then when you've gathered all the data, there is something that you might or might not want to do: Find out how much whatever they are doing, is costing them. And then you have to find a way to innovate and create a solution that does not stray too far from their budget. 

Good luck, innovator!

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