ObjectivesYouth unemployment is a multi-sectoral issue comprising education, economy, social protection and labour. Given this condition, the project focuses on and intends to share information, best practices as well as data on progress with the overall goal of improving labour market outcomes of youth, through:
- Sharing of information, best practices and data per ASEAN Member States (AMS) which include employment policies to address youth unemployment, educational policies to promote relevance of higher education and vocational trainings to the changing labour market demands, and policies to promote competitiveness of local SMEs and preparedness for Industry 4.0;
- Exchanging views on the potential impacts of the AEC and Industry 4.0 to employment trends and readiness of ASEAN Member States in responding to the skills demands in future;
- Recommending possible inter-sectoral and multi-stakeholder interventions or action points that would address identified gaps and would further improve youth labour market outcomes in the ASEAN; Thereby
- Gathering of evidence on what works on youth employment to foster strategic planning processes on sustaining and/or improving policies and interventions pertaining to industrial growth, youth labour market, TVET and higher education at the national and regional level.
Addressing youth unemployment issues is a major concern for many countries. To start with, unemployment of any kind is a drag on an economy and society. Not only does it undercut productivity, spending and investments stunting economic growth, it also contributes to inequality and social tension . The ASEAN Declaration on Culture of Prevention for a Peaceful, Inclusive, Resilient, Healthy and Harmonious Society adopted at the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017 in Manila, the Philippines, recognises youth unemployment as one of socio-economic problems that could manisfest into a potential disrupter of peace and security in society. The Declaration therefore calls for a transformation from a reactive to preventive approach in addressing those socio-economic problems, including youth unemployment.
Youth joblessness and inactivity have the consequence of not being able to tap into the economic aspirations and resources of young people who are the most vibrant and to whom which lie the future of any economy. Low- income youth cannot afford to be economically idle, which is why they work in informal conditions and as unpaid labour , resulting to millions of young people living in poverty. Initial low-paying jobs and delayed entry into the workforce cause limitation for the youth in terms of lifetime earning potential, employment, career growth, and skill development.
The currently declining youth unemployment in ASEAN may be at risk of going into reverse in future as fourth industrial revolution is emerging globally. There is limited analysis on fourth industrial revolution phenomenon and its projected impact to labour market and employment trends in Southeast Asia in future. Meanwhile, a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) projected structural change as a result of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is likely to increase the demand for a mix of managerial, technical and core employability skills.
ASEAN Member States have already been moving towards more skill-intensive production and exports, reflecting higher labour productivity. But the pattern of change varies considerably across the region. The demand for high-skill employment in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, which represent 80 percent of the region’s workforce, could grow by 41 percent or 14 million workers. This would allow low- and middle-income ASEAN Member States to move up the productivity and skills ladder so as to be competitive and not rely on a low-skill workforce to drive exports and growth. But this process will not happen automatically.
Realizing these opportunities presented by the AEC and also the potential impact of fourth industrial revolution to the region requires strengthening education and vocational training systems and ensuring that the most vulnerable have the qualifications and competencies needed to compete for those jobs. ASEAN’s move towards higher value-added industries calls for excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In this respect, some countries are still lagging. Middle- and high-income ASEAN economies are also facing challenges related to the mismatch between tertiary education and the needs of employers.
The share of tertiary graduates with a diploma in STEM remains low overall and is significantly lower for women. Therefore, according to the study of ILO and ADB, more than half of all high-skill employment in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam could be filled by workers with insufficient qualifications by 2025. Middle- and high-income ASEAN Member States such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are targeting high-skill manufacturing (such as automotive parts and electronics) as well as knowledge-based services (including information technology and financial services). This necessitates investing in workforce qualifications in STEM.