The World Economic Forum (WEF) has launched their 2019 edition of the survey on the Association Of The Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) youths. The survey aims to examine and understand the views, concerns, attitudes on jobs, skills, and future of work among the young population of ASEAN. Titled “ASEAN Youth: Technology, Skills and the Future of Work,” WEF surveyed 56,000 youth (aged 15- 35 years old) from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Key findings

The report can be condensed into seven observations on the ASEAN youth cited by WEF based on the survey results:

  1. They show a strong commitment to lifelong learning and a growth mindset
  2. Their primary reason for switching  jobs is to learn new skills
  3. They want to participate in more on-the-job training and internships
  4. They want to be entrepreneurs. They also want to work for foreign multinationals. Meanwhile, traditional SMEs are less favoured
  5. They favour jobs in the tech sector and look less favourably on traditional sectors
  6. They value soft skills more highly than hard skills. At the same time, they believe that they are more competent in soft skills
  7. They are open to work overseas as a means to upgrade their skills

Technology As A Disruptor

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing about changes which also alter what companies are looking for in their prospective employees. WEF noted that the ASEAN youths are highly aware of the potential challenges technology may pose in their employability.

Among those surveyed, 52.5% believed that they must upgrade their skills constantly. This is because a lot of the attitudes of the modern-day ASEAN youth are geared towards constant education and growth.

With a generation that highly values lifelong learning, we can have some confidence in saying that ASEAN is in the right path. As such, businesses must also take this into account and increase investment in human capital development.

Entrepreneurship

ASEAN youths also show a strong preference and desire to become entrepreneurs or to work for foreign multinationals. However, traditional SMEs which are the backbone of ASEAN labour markets are becoming less favoured among the youth. The technology sector is also the top choice for getting jobs among ASEAN youths while interest in the education sector is declining.

When it comes to youths aspiring to be entrepreneurs, Indonesia ranked the highest followed by Thailand and Vietnam. Singapore youths showed the least preference for becoming entrepreneurs.

Soft Skills

ASEAN youths value soft skills (such as emotional intelligence, resilience, adaptability) more than hard skills (STEM: science, technology, engineering, maths) believing that it will be more valuable in the future.

In the assessment, ASEAN youths mostly ranked having weak proficiency in STEM area with technology design (e.g. software programming) at the bottom. This may be a barrier in future job aspirations given that most want to work in the technology sector.

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