Asee peer logo

The Nature Of Engineering Work In South Asia: Identifying Engineering Roles

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Engineering Education & Capacity Building in Developing Countries

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1312.1 - 11.1312.9

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Vinay Kumar Domal UWA

visit author page

Domal ( is presently a PhD scholar at the School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Western Australia. His research aims to explore systematically the nature of engineering work in South Asia and compare the engineering practices with Australia based on engineering roles framework.

He completed his postgraduate studies in Europe, Year 2004 and worked on major project on humanitarian mine clearing vehicles with Scandinavian Demining Group and Swedish military FMV in improving the efficiency of Scanjack double flail system.

visit author page


James Trevelyan UWA

visit author page

Professor Trevelyan's ( principal interest is engineering work: how engineering work is accomplished and what engineers actually do in their work.

His other research interests include robotics, mechatronics and landmine clearance methods. He directed sheep shearing robots project from its inception in 1977 till 1989 and contributed as a part-time technical consultant until mid 1993. This work has received wide international recognition and, together with others, has helped to establish Australia's excellent reputation for advanced robotics research. In 1996 he started a major research programme on landmine clearance, which has led to several practical innovations in mine clearance programmes.

Author is currently Chair of Mechatronics Engineering discipline group and is therefore primarily responsible for Mechatronics Engineering degree courses at UWA.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015