According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Southeast Asia is not leveraging its workforce properly due to challenges that are keeping certain sectors from the labor industry. The report stated it is imperative for the region to promote and expand the labor industry and optimize its people’s talent and skill set to boost the region’s economy. However, the region is hindered by issues in seamless employment and leveraging of skills, which should be improved.
Andrew Bell, the Head of OECD Skills Strategies, stated the region should improve its people’s knowledge on life courses, and enhancing skills is a vital step in the process to create economic and social value. He also added the pandemic has expedited digital transformation and globalization, indicating a change in the demand for talent among the workforce.
Yoshiki Takeuchi, the OECD Deputy Secretary-General, stated the region’s digital skills should be improved to effectively contribute to the economy despite the many problems it has been facing, such as low performance, insufficient digital skills, and lack of resources and materials.
According to the OECD report, the region is forecasted to be one of the top players in the creation of data centers. Still, Southeast Asia needs to develop the skills of its people, as only 28% of individuals aged 15 and up can effectively implement digital tasks.
Andrew Bell stated that this data is due to the insufficient digital infrastructure in the region, as well as the lack of training. With only 22% of the children in Southeast Asia with a teacher able to access a working device, such as a computer or laptop, and only 50% of learners aged 10 to 13 able to access the same devices while studying, there is still much work to be done.
Bell added the Southeast Asian region should work on lessening financial barriers, such as tuition and the cost of learning materials in the tertiary level, and also give practitioners or teachers the resources to help equip them and their students with the necessary skills.
The OECD’s recommendation is to offer financial incentives to all stakeholders to promote upskilling and training to improve talent in the region, increase focus on research and development, and enhance collaborations in higher education in the industry. Scholarships can also help.
With the right interventions, Southeast Asia can create a workforce that is well-equipped to tackle the challenges of the future.