LABOR Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said Filipino workers must upgrade their skills in the face of technological disruption, warning that mismanaging the technology transition will widen inequality.

In a speech at the 108th International Labor Organization (ILO) Conference, Mr. Bello said: “(W)e want to ensure that no one is left behind and no one is displaced from their respective jobs.”

“The collective efforts to… ensure the dignity of labor against the backdrop of technological advances have never been more urgent than today,” he added.

He said automation and other technologies threaten those jobs which can be done better and more cost-efficiently by machine.

“The main task at hand right now is to craft specific policy responses that affirm our human incomparability and assert the import of tripartism and social dialogue,” he said.

In order to help employees face automation challenges, Mr. Bello urged them to pursue “upskilling, reskilling, and retooling.” While automation can open up new employment opportunities, he warned that the transition should be managed cautiously to minimize risks to the work force.

“Automation in the world represents good opportunities but it can also, if not properly managed, cause social inequality and poverty,” Mr. Bello said. — Gillian M. Cortez