June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1312.1 - 11.1312.9
The Nature of Engineering Work in South Asia: Identifying Engineering Roles
This study started with the observation that the real end-user costs of engineered services such as water supplies and energy in developing countries can be considerably higher than in industrialized countries. We hypothesize differences in engineering practice, the nature of engineering work, contribute significantly to this problem. The relatively scant literature on engineering work provides a weak basis for comparison because most contributors have been social scientists with limited ability to understand the technical dimensions of the work. No comprehensive description of engineering work practices seems to be available in the published literature. We have therefore analysed interviews with engineers and field observations to build a framework of engineering work roles and we propose to use this to test differences in work practice between South Asia and Australia.
Engineering innovations fuel economic growth, competition and human progress. Industrialized countries enjoy a high standard of living because of technology and engineering advances. But in most developing countries the scenario is different. These countries are facing serious productivity problems and poverty. The end user costs of basic necessities such as water, energy, construction, transportation and communication are high compared to industrialized countries, even though hourly labour costs are much lower (Trevelyan and Tilli 2003). It is time to ask what engineers do in developing countries and under what conditions they do it. More specifically, we must understand how this differs from what they do in industrialized countries. Are these differences affecting the way they think and act? With thousands of excess graduates in engineering disciplines unemployed in South Asia, we need to explain why there are skill shortages and a lack of competition in engineering sector of the economy.
The authors’ personal experience, early interviews and field observations in South Asia have suggested many ways in which engineering work is different, despite the close similarities in technical education curricula. Organizations tend to have more hierarchy levels, larger numbers of people for the same work output, and engineers seem to have less financial awareness and authority. Engineering work relies on a narrower choice of materials and component supplies, and technical skills available in the workforce are relatively low in comparison to industrialised countries. Employers seem less willing to follow technical advice from engineers and seem to place little trust and confidence in their engineers. Engineers are paid at rates that are typically between 30% and 50% of levels in Australia but work shorter hours with considerably less work intensity and responsibility. At the top end of skills and abilities, however, engineering remuneration seems comparable with international norms.
Given these initial observations, we can look for ways to attempt a systematic comparison between engineering practices in South Asia and Australia. Here we encounter a surprising difficulty. There seems to be no readily available description of engineering practice that would allow such a comparison to be made systematically. The engineering practices
Domal, V. K., & Trevelyan, J. (2006, June), The Nature Of Engineering Work In South Asia: Identifying Engineering Roles Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1081
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