Asia must overcome skills gap, says ADB

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Manila: Asia and the Pacific must overcome skills gaps and scale up technical training to create innovative economies able to generate sustainable, inclusive growth, says a new book by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“While Asia and the Pacific accounts for almost half of global unemployment, 45% of employers in the region face difficulty in finding suitable talent in their markets,” said Bindu Lohani, ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “Countries in Asia will not be able to create sufficient employment unless they address the serious skills mismatches that exist in their labor markets.”

The ADB publication, Skills Development for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia, looks at the issues, challenges, and potential measures countries could take to develop the skills needed to promote employment, sustain growth, and improve global competitiveness. The book, co-published with Springer, consists of articles from leading experts and policy makers in technical and vocational education and training.

Shifting away from the factory-driven growth model of the past requires a technically adept market-driven labor force able to generate creative, cutting edge ideas and products. However, the book reveals that Asia’s training systems are struggling to fill employers’ needs. Even those with graduate degrees are lacking market-ready technical skills to be absorbed into the workforce.

The large informal labor force in Asia is also unable to take full advantage of new opportunities in the modern market economy. In the People’s Republic of China, for example, there is an annual ‘floating population’ of more than 150 million migrant rural laborers who regularly seek jobs in cities, but who lack the training to pursue more skilled work. In India, meanwhile, there are 200 million workers stuck in low productivity jobs, while around 1 million young people are expected to join the workforce every month for the next 20 years.

The publication argues that equipping secondary school and university graduates with employable skills requires a shift from academically-oriented learning to demand-driven courses relevant to industry needs. This can be achieved through, for example, credible national qualification frameworks and certification systems and closer links amongst schools, universities, and technical and vocational education providers.

Developing skills of disadvantaged groups, including women, will bring substantial economic benefits and help reduce the growing income inequality in the region, according to the book, which recommends more public-private partnership to increase the cost-efficiency, quality, and relevance of technical courses.

The publication also notes that greener economies could generate up to 60 million additional jobs over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty. Green jobs require a mix of new technical skills related to renewable energy, climate change adaptation, trade, recycling and use, and engineering, which are not yet addressed adequately by training institutions.
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