Economic growth, social cohesion and equality of opportunity rely on a country’s workforce being skilled and ready to embrace the needs of future-ready organizations.
In Southeast Asia, technological disruption is expected to significantly affect the workforce, driving growth and creating new demand for workers. A recent study by Cisco and Oxford Economics showed that 6.6 million jobs will become redundant by 2028 across the six largest economies in the region. By 2028, these countries will require 28 million fewer workers to produce the same level of output as today.
Trends like rising affluent middle-income earners, increased consumption, and investment in infrastructure and energy will create a strong demand for new jobs and offset the displacement of work. However, the survey also found that 41 per cent of workers in Southeast Asia today are lacking the skills that future new jobs will demand.
The dual role of governments
Governments across the region need to act in a dual capacity. On one hand, they need to build the skills and capabilities of their existing employees in the public sector to drive greater efficiencies, elevate citizen focus and strengthen diversity and inclusion. They will thus need to do more to attract, retain and develop fresh talent with the required skills and capabilities.
The accountability of governments doesn’t stop there. Governments are also responsible for overall workforce transformation in the country to ensure that they stay competitive and relevant. This entails keeping up with business and industrial trends and enabling businesses and individuals to make well-informed choices in education, training and careers, as well as fostering a culture and enabling ecosystem that supports and celebrates lifelong learning.
Successful workforce transformation will depend on the close collaboration among industry stakeholders, educational institutions, trade associations and chambers, as well as commitment from businesses and individuals to drive progress.
To that end, public and private sectors must co-invest in reskilling to ensure that the skills in the workforce continue to match job creation. While public education remains important and government needs to be an enabler in successful workforce transformation, private companies also have a significant responsibility in being the schools of tomorrow.
Businesses as schools of tomorrow
International organizations are seeing the potential of the Southeast Asia and the importance of workforce transformation. For example, the World Economic Forum has pledged to equip 20 million workers with digital skills by 2020, working alongside major tech companies to establish a regional movement committed to empowering individuals through skilling, reskilling and upskilling.
National-level initiatives are highly crucial in driving workforce readiness and governments are recognizing that. For example, in Singapore, the national-level SkillsFuture initiative seeks to drive life-long learning, with the government working with the private sector to ensure that the local workforce, through reskilling, evolves to acquire, deepen and accelerate the right digital skillsets and mindsets to unlock much of the productivity and innovation potential of the future economy.
Over in Thailand, the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) has launched the “Young Talent Platform” during the country’s e-Commerce Week 2019 to bring together young Thai people with the aim of helping them be digitally ready for working in the e-Commerce era. The ETDA announced that they aim to attract 1 million teenagers to join the e-commerce workforce and 200,000 micro-SMEs to go online this year to boost the online economy.
In Malaysia, the country has announced a training program aimed at enabling Malaysian entrepreneurs to educate their workforce on how to operate in an e-commerce world and share best practices, recognizing the need to support smaller businesses in their transformation journeys.
Human talent at the core
Even as digital technology changes the face of how work is being performed, the human talent remains key. There are boundless opportunities for businesses and governments to collaborate and drive employee skilling at both an enterprise and national level. A well-trained workforce can foster growth for decades to come, but an ill-equipped one can fast become one of the top challenges for business and countries alike and impact growth and value creation.
The writer is EY Asean Workforce Advisory Leader. The views reflected in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.