The Asian region has experienced some of the highest growth rates in the world, with investments in skills playing a significant role in helping national economies to adjust to changes in working practices, advances in technology, and challenges associated with globalisation. In some countries, this process has been more successfully managed and significant advances have been achieved in growth rates and employment levels. In other countries, however, it has resulted in a stagnation of economic sectors, underemployment, rising unemployment levels and social exclusion for large sections of society.
The region of Southeast Asia is confronted with significant labour market challenges. The regions are growing at a rapid pace and industry is becoming more diversified – leading to job requirements that are more demanding with sophisticated skills.
The 2030 Skills Scorecard revealed that South Asia lags behind several other regions in preparing the next generation of young people with the skills needed for 21st-century work. This demands of the job market and talents then might create imbalance. The projections as revealed in the Skills Scorecard place South Asia well below the global average.
Furthermore, skills development should be integrated with employment promotion for both the formal and informal private sector, thus, creating a win-win solution for employers, employees, and the global economy. It is essential to examine the interaction between country approaches to skills development and country approaches to skills utilisation. Government, in this matter, should provide both state policy development and training for creating decent and productive employment.
OECD study on ESSSA cited that learning from the Southeast Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei) should be a good approach to maintain this skills development. One of the central lessons to learn from the Tigers is the need to put in place an industrial policy that targets growth in sectors that have employment potential. Once an industrial policy is in place, it will be easier for governments to ensure that a match is achieved between the demand and supply of skills.
However, there are no precise agreements on the most suitable strategies for achieving sustained employment or supporting high skill development. Each country in Southeast Asia will have its own unique development characteristics and goals. As a consequence, any reform will take into account these unique circumstances, including geographical topography, institutional structures, and the nature of economic demands and culture.
Malaysia, for example, is turning workplaces as a means for encouraging skills development and growth. While Indonesia uses a more decentralised approach to reduce unemployment. In Singapore, the model is unique by ensuring skill strategies are linked to identify economic goals and their future needs.
Employers, HR managers and leaders, in this regard, are having a role to help the government create a sustainable work culture in order to close the skill shortage. Yannick Binvel, president at Korn Ferry, advised employers and HR practitioners to invest in training and encouraging a culture of continuous learning. Helping the government by allowing apprenticeship and internship program might also be a good answer to preparing the future generation for skills needed in the 21st-century work.
IBM also cited that employers and leaders should commit to a modern workforce strategy that places skills at the centre, delivers deep visibility into the skill position, personalises skills development at scale, and leverages new partnerships and platforms that integrate data and insights across employee lifecycles.