DATE: 15 May 2018

TIME: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm

VENUE: Menara CIMB, KL Sentral, Malaysia

TOPIC: Closing the Talent and Skills Gap in ASEAN

Research shows that ASEAN-5 countries continue to face talent shortages and skills gaps.1 Singapore has a skills gap problem with a shortage of students enrolled in critical fields such as engineering and cyber security. Malaysia’s labour market indicates a lack of quality skills-based and job-relevant training. Indonesia faces both huge skills shortages and skills mismatches with 113 million skilled and semi-skilled workers required by 2030 in the services and manufacturing sectors. For example, projections indicate that Indonesia will have only 56% of the middle managers needed. Thailand also faces a shortage of skilled workers which continues to be a constraint to the growth of businesses. Finally, in the Philippines, a skills gap prevails with graduates not equipped with industry-relevant skills, especially in industries related to science and technology.

The ASEAN Economic Community calls for the facilitation of movement of skilled labour and business visitors within the bloc, yet labour mobility remains restricted. Six mutual-recognition agreements (MRAs) were concluded by 2012 for engineering services, nursing, architectural services, tourism, medical practitioners, and dental practitioners; while framework agreements covering two other professions (surveying and accounting services) have been signed. Except for engineering and architectural services, progress for the rest have been slow. Recently, the ASEAN also adopted and signed the ninth MRA for Flight Crew licensing in late 2017.

How will ASEAN integration help fast track labour mobility to meet the demand of the skills gap and shortage countries face? Does a liberalised labour market benefit all countries given the challenge in human capital development in individual countries, including CLMV? What needs to be done to ensure that the region’s benefits from current arrangements such as MRAs and what can be done to fill gaps in critical areas such as medicine in various countries?