Improving Labor’s Skills - The key to success

Update: 10:54 | 06/11/2017
"With a dynamic economy and a population of more than 90 millions, Viet Nam constitutes a large market for APEC economies. The Vietnamese Government and enterprises are striving to enhance quality of the human resource that will turn Viet Nam into an attractive destination for sustainable investment in the future".
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Miranda Kwong, Labour Economist, International Labour Organization (ILO) in Viet Nam emphasized in her interview with The World & Viet Nam Report before the APEC 2017 Summit in Da Nang.

What are the opportunities and challenges created by the digital age for workers in the APEC?

Rapid technological changes (robotic automation, Artificial Intelligence, spread of internet and so on) are affecting the world of work strongly in various ways by bringing both opportunities and challenges in the way work is conceived, performed and managed.

The digital age has the potential to create numerous opportunities that can strengthen economic development by increasing labour productivity and facilitating people’s access to information, learning, knowledge sharing and exchange of practices through common platforms. In addition, new forms of work are created through the “gig economy” for example, whereby workers can perform their jobs through online platforms such as apps.

improving labors skills the key to success
Labour Economist Miranda Kwong. (Source: LinkedIn)

In other sectors, the digital age can bring additional challenges in labour intensive sectors where jobs can be at lost in the future. A recent ILO study “ASEAN in transformation – How technology is changing jobs and enterprises” found that three in five jobs in ASEAN could become automated in the next decade, particularly affecting women (approximately 2.4 times higher than men) and the least educated who are most at risk of technology automation in the workplace.

What is the key to promote the movement of skilled labour within APEC?

In the context of APEC dynamic economies where ICT (Information and Communications Technology) spreads out rapidly and pushes further the movement of labour geographically or online, workers’ skills need to be constantly updated to meet the evolving demands of the labour market.

Workers’ reskilling and up skilling are important factors to maintain comparative advantages in regional and international integration. In the context of rapid technological changes, education, training systems and skills development would need to focus on portability that allow workers to rapidly adjust to technological changes across economies.

Besides, the reinforcement of social protection policies, particularly for women and vulnerable groups is very essencial, aiming to ensure their protection and access to minimum guarantees such as health care and basic income security. This is also critical for enhancing labour productivity and structural transformations. 

There remains a gap between Viet Nam’s human resources and of others in the region. How could Viet Nam bridge that gap?

The ASEAN Leaders Summit statement on “Human Resources and Skills Development for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth” has pointed out the trends toward narrowing of the skills gaps amongst ASEAN members in recent years.

Although situations vary according to members’ economic structure and level of development, some of them primarily focus on primary education and literacy skills development, others tend to focus on vocational and technical training systems, other aim at enhancing specialisation into STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

improving labors skills the key to success
ICT spreals out rapidly in order to improving labours' skill in Viet Nam.

To bridge this gap more closely, Viet Nam could strengthen its education, technical and vocational training system and more broadly foster skill development to strengthen economic growth. A closer collaboration between education and training providers and the private sector would ensure that labour supply is aligned with labour demand.

In addition, encouraging the young workforce to be proactive to lifelong learning also create more opportunities to adapt and learn rapidly to the changes in the world of work and to mitigate the negative impact on economic crisis on jobs. A combination of both core skills such as teamwork, interpersonal communication, creative, analytical thinking, problem solving  and technical skills (for example in STEM) are critical to adapt to a fast paced environment.

Besides, a favourable environment that governs and regulates labour market is key for Viet Nam to increase labour productivity and competitiveness at the aggregate level but also to ensure that the gains of growth are more equally distributed. Social dialogue at the workplace is notably crucial to ensure good working conditions and workers’ voices properly heard. Finally, the need for enterprises to keep up with innovations and technology upgrading is imperative in the new context.

What do you expect about the future of labour issues within APEC? What do you think about Viet Nam’s initiatives?

The future of work is happenning now and still needs to be shaped more clearly.  A number of main factors are now transforming the world of work, including technological advancement that is certainly seen as a major force shaking up the world of work by opening up as many opportunities as challenges for APEC economies.

Recently in May 2017, the “APEC framework on Human Resource Development in the digital age” was adopted in Ha Noi. If properly implemented, this platform can be used to strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration amongst APEC member economies through experiences sharing of innovative policies initiatives among member economies for example. Three priority areas have been identified including (i) the future of work in the digital age and labour market policy implications, (ii) skills, education and training and (iii) social protection.

With a dynamic economy and a population of more than 90 millions, Viet Nam constitutes a large market for APEC economies. The Vietnamese Government and enterprises are striving to enhance quality of the human resource that will turn Viet Nam into an attractive destination for sustainable investment in the future. However, a number of challenges still need to be overcome in order to ensure a quality of labour force that can adapt to today’s reality but most importantly workers’ own aspirations.

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