1 July 2018
Social Science Research Council

PI: Prof Lim Sun Sun (HASS, SUTD)
Team: Prof Peter Jackson (ESD, SUTD), Prof Wong Poh Kam (NUS), A/P F. Ted Tschang (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, SMU), Mr Poon King Wang (LKYCIC, SUTD), A/P Eduardo Araral (NUS), A/P Vu Minh Khuong (LKYSPP, NUS), Dr Chan Mun Kitt (LKYSPP, NUS), Dr Samuel Chng (LKYCIC, SUTD)

Across studies by universities, consultancies, companies and non-profits, concerns are growing about the impact of technology disruption on work. Singapore has also made this issue a top priority. At the 2017 Committee of Supply debates, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, stressed that the “accelerating digital revolution… is going to disrupt jobs” and his top priority is “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Singapore is thus investing heavily in job creation and matching, and skills re-training and upgrading.

There are also growing concerns that we need to better track this disruptive impact, especially by AI and automation, on jobs. A 2017 USA National Academies report concluded that current tools are inadequate, and new tools are needed. MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, who co-chaired the panel for the report, admitted that “[w]e’re flying blind.”

Hence, as Singapore journeys towards being a Smart Nation and Digital Economy, we need to able to track and tackle how this digital disruption will impact and change Singapore’s economy and society. Singapore needs to do this well so that the workforce is resilient, economy is competitive, and society is not beset by potential digital divides.

Leveraging the close collaborations between the social science, technological, and policy disciplines at the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities (LKYCIC) at SUTD and SUTD on the whole, policy expertise at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), and management and strategy expertise at NUS’s School of Business and SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business we thus propose a multi-disciplinary study on:

  1. how Singapore can track the speed and scale of digital disruption in Singapore; digital disruption in work is defined in this study as the transformations in work and organisations that are brought about by the introduction of technology.
  2. how Singapore can help organizations and their workers tackle this disruption; specifically, we will focus on how they can adopt new technologies expediently, by ‘learning’ the technology, ‘changing’ the way work is done, and ‘mastering’ the use of these technologies to increase productivity.
  3. how Singapore can potentially create new jobs in a digital economy.
  4. what are Singapore’s policy options to respond to digital disruption

The focus will be on two key sectors: manufacturing, and exportable services, specifically finance and banking.  They form two important drivers of Singapore’s economy, and provide a cross-section of different skills profiles – from labour-intensive to knowledge-based – of the workforce.  By focusing on these two sectors, we aim to produce industry specific findings while also generalizing our findings across different jobs.

This project aims to i) construct Singapore’s first occupation task database that will afford the ability to track digital transformation of tasks in occupations to identify potential digital disruption, ii) combine data science with social and behavioural science, and use a mix of big data, and quantitative and qualitative methods to develop a more comprehensive understanding of digital disruption in Singapore.

The results generated from this research program will be used to develop recommendations on how the government, organisations and individuals can prepare themselves for digital disruptions to maximise gains and opportunities and minimise costs. We will also mentor early career researchers and young scholars through this program.

1 July 2018
Social Science Research Council


  • Goh, Zi An Galvyn. & Poon, King Wang. (2022). A Task-Based Approach to Lifelong Learning, Well-Being, and Resilience in the Workplace of the Future. In: Lee, W.O., Brown, P., Goodwin, A.L., Green, A. (eds) International Handbook on Education Development in Asia-Pacific. Springer, Singapore.
  • Bajaj, Tamanna Kaur., & Chng, Samuel. (2021). The Dilemma of Digitalisation: Understanding the challenges, needs and support for SME retailers in Singapore. SSRN.
  • Nair, Sreeja., Lim, Sun Sun., Trenerry, Brigid., Chng, Samuel., & Wang, Yang. (2021). Preparing for Workforce Transformation in Singapore: The Role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, The Next Digital Decade: Case Studies from Asia (Volume 2, pp. 59-85). Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Digital Asia Hub, Germany.
  • Poon, King Wang. (2021). Helping Workers Weather Crisis and Disruption: A Task Approach for Designing a New Future of Work, The Next Digital Decade: Case Studies from Asia (Volume 2, pp. 31-56). Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Digital Asia Hub, Germany.
  • Tan, Zhi Ming., & Narayanan, Devesh. (2021). Agency and Structure: Conceptualising Applied AI Ethics in Organisations, The Next Digital Decade: Case Studies from Asia (Volume 2, pp. 11-28). Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Digital Asia Hub, Germany.
  • Trenerry, Brigid., Chng, Samuel., Yang, Wang., Shah, Suhaila Binte Zainal., Lim, Sun Sun., Lu, Han Yu., Oh, Peng Ho. (2021). Preparing Workplaces for Digital Transformation: An Integrative Review and Framework of Multi-Level Factors. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 620766.
  • Trenerry, Brigid., Gayathri, Haridas., & Lim, Sun Sun. (2019) Diversity, Inclusion and the Future of Work, Asia Global Online. Retrieved from Asia Global Online:


  • Suhaila, Zainal Shah., Trenerry, Brigid., Lim, Sun Sun. (2022, Aug). Exploring the Gendered Burden of Unpaid Care Work in Times of Digitalization and COVID-19 Pandemic. In Roundtable Session at the American Sociological Association (ASA) 117th Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, California.
  • Suhaila, Zainal Shah., & Raghunath, Nilanjan. (2022, Jun). Working from Home and Working Mothers’ Experiences of Work-Life Balance and Boundary Management in Times of Uncertainty. Paper presented at the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) 6th Biennial Conference, New York, USA.
  • Trenerry, Brigid., & Oh, Peng Ho. (2021, May). Enhancing Smart Citizenship and Digital Transformation in a Post-Covid-19 World: Opportunities and Challenges for Singapore. Smart Citizenship In and Beyond Singapore, National University of Singapore, Singapore [Virtual].
  • Yang, Wang., Chng, Samuel., Trenerry, Brigid., Shah, Suhaila Binte Zainal. & Lim, Sun Sun. (2021, May). Changing workplace communication with Mobile Technologies: A Case Study of Implementing a Mobile Management System in a Construction Company. Paper presented at 71st Annual International Communication Association Conference.
  • Lim, Sun Sun. (2021, Mar). Innovating without Pain: Preparing Workers, Teams and Organisations for a Digital Future. In Temasek Foundation Leaders in Economic Development (TFLED) programme, National Trade Union Congress, Singapore.
  • Nair, Sreeja., Lim, Sun Sun., Trenerry, Brigid., Samuel, Chng., & Wang, Yang.  (2021, Mar). Preparing for workforce transformation in Singapore: The role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Asia-Pacific Public Policy Network Annual Conference, Hong Kong [Virtual].
  • Nair, Sreeja., Lim, Sun Sun., Trenerry, Brigid., Samuel, Chng., & Wang, Yang. (2021, Feb). Preparing for workforce transformation in Singapore: The role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Australasian Policy Network Conference, Australasian Public Policy Network, Australia [Virtual].
  • Araral, Eduardo., & Nair, Sreeja. (2021, Jul). Evaluating policy responses to address digital disruption, industry transformations and workforce resilience (Policy Panel), 5th International Conference on Public Policy 2021 (ICPP5), International Public Policy Association, Barcelona [Virtual].
  • Oh, Peng Ho, Trenerry, Brigid., Nair, Sreeja., Chng, Samuel., Lim, Sun Sun., & Araral, Eduardo. (2021, Jul). Learning attitudes of jobseekers in the face of digital disruptions and the COVID-19 pandemic: Study of an upskilling programme in Singapore, ILO 7th Conference of the Regulating for Decent Work Network [Virtual].
  • Goh, Zi An Galvyn., & Poon, King Wang. (2021). Development of a novel method to investigate well-being and job quality in job tasks. In Oral session at the Singapore Conference of Applied Psychology 2021, Singapore.
  • Goh, Zi An Galvyn., Hakim Norhashim, Norakmal., Vinod, Radha., Apsley, Holly., Narayanan, Devesh., Tan, Zhi Ming., & Poon, King Wang. (2020). Development of a novel method to apply the job demands-resources model in job tasks. Institute of Work Psychology International Conference.
  • Lim, Sun Sun., Trenerry, Brigid., Chng, Samuel, Wang, Yang., Zainal Shah. Suhaila., Lu, Han Yu., & Oh, Peng Ho. (2020, Oct). Mindset, motivation and mentoring: Supporting workers through digital disruptions. In Panel Session at the NTUC Labour Research Conference Workers’ Matters: Finding ways to brave the roads ahead, Singapore.
  • Poon, King Wang. (2020, Aug). Redefining the Finance Function with Job Redesign. ISCA Virtual PAIB Conference 2020 (Gearing up to Reboot in a New World). Institute of Standard Chartered Accountants (ISCA), Singapore.
  • Lim, Sun Sun. (2020, Jan). Tangential, Arduous, Expensive? Exploring Ground Sentiments and Learners’ Profiles in TAE Programmes. In Expert Roundtable in The Duality of Digital Transformation for the TAE Sector, Centre for Work and Learning, Centre for Innovation and Development, Institute for Adult Learning, Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore.
  • Chng, Samuel. (2019). Human-robot collaboration, In Port Security and Modernisation Asia Summit, IQPC, Singapore.
  • Goh, Zi An Galvyn., Hakim Norhashim., Vinod, Radha., Apsley, Holly., & Poon, King Wang. (2019). “Oh gosh my job has been replaced by a robot!.” Investigating the perspectives of workers and employers considering job transitions via the task-based approach. In Poster session at the 19th Congress of the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology, Turin.
  • Trenerry, Brigid., Haridas, Gayathri., Chng, Samuel., Zainal Shah, Suhailah., Oh, Peng Ho., Wang, Yang & Lim, Sun Sun. (2019, Aug). The Gender Implications of the Future of Work in Singapore. Paper presented at the Gender Summit 16, August 2019, Singapore.
  • Chng, Samuel. (2019, Jul). Individuals in Smart Cities: Understanding how individuals perceive and react to technological introductions, 13th Biennial Asian Association of Social Psychology, Taiwan.
  • Lim, Sun Sun. (2019, Jul). Capacity Building, Networks, and Tools to Support/Increase Digitally Enabled Faculty, APEC Closing the Digital Skills Gap Forum. Unilever Training Campus, Singapore.
  • Lim, Sun Sun. (2019, Feb). Industry 4.0 and Skills Transformation – Global Issues, Local Responses, Unpacking Industry 4.0: The Limit of Digitalizing Everything. Singapore. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological, Singapore.
  • Lim, Sun Sun. (2018, Oct). The Future of Technology – Issues to Ponder at the Dawn of the Robot Invasion, 11th Singapore Economic Policy Forum. Economic Society of Singapore, Singapore.