Future of work

APEC economies adopt new cooperation framework to address future of work issues

The framework includes labour market policy, skills training, and social protection.

News | 15 May 2017
HANOI (ILO News) – Representatives of the economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on 15 May agreed to boost regional cooperation in future of work and labour market policy, skills training, and social protection to address common issues in the new technology era.

The APEC Framework on Human Resources Development in the Digital Age was put forward at the high-level policy dialogue in Hanoi as an appropriate set of policy directions to support the economies in preparing their workforce and labour markets for the challenges and opportunities in the world of work today and beyond.

“Many new jobs are going to be created in the digital economy,” said Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director, who emphasized that “productivity will be almost everything in the new age”.

Although the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” will help significantly improve productivity, according to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, it could create massive job losses, particularly among low-skilled workers performing manual tasks, currently accounting for a large proportion of the total employment in the region. This revolution refers to the current trend of automation including robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and 3D printing.

An ILO study entitled “ASEAN in transformation – How technology is changing jobs and enterprises” in 2016 shows that 86 per cent of Viet Nam’ garment and footwear workers could face a high risk of automation whereas about three quarters of wage workers in electronic and electrical products sector could be replaced by robots in the coming decades.

Addressing the event, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, David Lamotte emphasized that policy makers and the communities should recognize it as “an opportunity” rather than “a threat”.

“We can make the future we want,” he said. Although no one knows what exactly the future is going to be, some sets of skills are foreseen to be required in the coming time.

Lamotte named soft skills such as problem-solving or creativity among the ones needed by employers but difficult to find in workers. The other set of skills in demand includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“We need to strengthen the teaching and training of these skills, particularly for young women,” he said.

In recognizing the potential job losses in manufacturing sectors, Lamotte called on the economies to protect those workers through social protection and re-training schemes.