Skill gaps across major labor markets within ASEAN today have been noted to be on the rise, chief among which is the widening gap in tech skills. With the increased role of technology in business processes today, this is an alarming situation for many within ASEAN markets.
ASEAN markets often face a conundrum when it comes to its labor productivity. While the region collectively has one of the largest workforce numbers, hindrances such as bad infrastructure, social expectations, low skills, and a lack of proper mobility within the region greatly affect ASEAN's ability to grow. The rate of change—both technological and economical— is exponential, widening the gap between the labor market and education.
The fact that many countries within the region have been showcasing strong performance and are projected to have a steady growth period today hinges on how effectively key talent gaps can be addressed. They also require companies to revamp their TA models to reflect the preferences of changing demography.
Many systemic barriers to accessing proper skills and education mean that talent pools for skilled professionals have remained localized and relatively small in number. This, in turn, has fuelled their demand and many experts note that today skilled labor remains high and is even acute in some sectors and professions. Tech facing sectors like IT remain a core part of such talent challenges.
The rising tech challenge in the region
With the access to properly trained talent across many tech-related job roles, today the region has talent acquisition models geared towards meeting the demands of highly skilled or experienced workers. But even with such focus on utilizing attractive compensation models haven’t necessarily addressed the skills gap that exists today across major labor markets in the region. This trend has over the years shifted the balance of power, skewing it significantly towards the demands of top talent.
Surveys show that over 40 percent of Hong Kong’s mobile app development companies have been forced to look externally to fill important positions. This while in other developed markets in Southeast Asia, Singapore, over 93 percent of CIO interviewed in a survey showed their skepticism when it came to countries ability to chart a productive future within the technology sector, citing lack of talent preparedness as the reason. Over 83 percent of them said that attracting the right and properly qualified IT professionals are a major challenge. A similar dearth has been noted in one of the largest economies in the region. Indonesia, due to a mismatch between education quality and their employability, today has a large and persistent skills gap. In this country of 250 million people, only 10 percent of the total employment is highly skilled.
In Singapore, for example, despite being ASEAN’s most advanced economy, more than 11 percent of business leaders interviewed by the World Economic Forum indicate struggles in sourcing qualified workers from domestic labor pools. At the other end of the developmental spectrum, nearly 20 percent of business leaders in Laos report similar concerns about sourcing qualified talent.
How have recruiters responded?
It is important to note that the shortage of skilled professionals today has meant that top skilled professionals across the board remain constantly on the radar of recruiters. This almost steady stream of new opportunities, which has repercussions not only for recruiting but for retention as well. It's not surprising to notice that the worker turnover across APAC reached an all-time high of nearly 30 percent in recent years; a trend, according to the International Monetary Foundation (IMF) report is bound to go up.
When it comes to recruiters and TA heads, it's important that many don’t depend on such limited talent pools. This has been one of the biggest changes noted within the recruitment landscape in the region. Many companies have actively begun looking outside their traditional—often marked with geographical proximity—and favor talent with more ‘global exposure’.
Employers have also begun undertaking significant changes in how they look at end-to-end employee management. With a keen interest in bettering its employer brand as a vital talent acquisition tool, employee engagement efforts have become more important. Salary studies show that the region is to soon see many paying close attention to building a strong employer brand and companies seeking to leverage social media platforms to boost their reputation and reach across the job markets in the region.
With ASEAN greatly improving mobility of formal workers within the region, such steps are aimed at attracting the best, in a talent pool which has grown significantly with the ease in the flow of labor. There is also a greater need in 2019 for businesses to highlight in-company opportunities for promotion and movement.
With main factors determining job satisfaction within southeast Asia in the coming year remaining work-life balance, remuneration, feedback, and encouragement from management as well as training and opportunities, it will be important to tune value propositions to such notes to attract the right tech talent in the coming years.