June 17, 2024

Implementing policies that promote skills building in the face of rapidly changing labor market conditions are important to mitigate the skills gap even as economies leverage on digital technologies, according to the 2021 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Policy Report.
“The future of work is not about technology, but about people. Technology will move forward, innovations will continue and opportunities will bloom. But there is a need to address the real social and economic impacts that come with change,” it said.
The report issued by the APEC Economic Committee highlighted four megadrivers of change – technological change, climate change, globalization and demographic change – which promote innovation and advance development, although each comes with costs.
“Even among sectors that could leverage on digital technologies, there were gaps that needed to be addressed. Economies most unprepared to facilitate the shift to digitalization were severely impacted as they lacked the physical and institutional infrastructure, and skillset needed to support the digital transformation,” it said.
The report said governments can support the development of skills by building better skills forecasting systems through employment surveys and sector studies that capture the current labor imbalances and enable anticipation of future skill demands.
“Skills gaps can also be narrowed by upskilling and reskilling workers and promoting lifelong learning to equip them with the skillsets needed to perform in the changing labor market. Government collaboration with the private sector would be necessary to provide a more comprehensive approach to skills building,” it added.
The APEC Economic Policy Report also underscored the importance of targeted investments in education to better align school curricula and future of work labor market skills needs, such as information technology skills and critical thinking skills.
“It would be pertinent to ensure that all socioeconomic groups in the economy have access to high quality education so that no one would be left behind in embracing and contributing to the future of work,” it said.
To address the real social and economic impacts that come with change, the report said it is also imperative to ensure economic security.
“The disruptive nature of the pandemic and the impact of the megadrivers on the labor market requires effective social protection systems that reduce income uncertainty and mitigate the downside to workers at risk of displacement,” it said.
The report further said economies can improve their protection systems by expanding the scope and coverage of unemployment benefit programs to cover the most vulnerable, including workers in the informal economy.
Social protection policies could include better healthcare coverage, unemployment benefits in the form of cash transfers and unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions, it said.
“Targeted active labor market policies that provide training services are also needed to improve the employability of the unemployed. Such policies will improve matching of jobseekers and vacancies, and better equip the workforce with the skillsets needed in the future, for example, in the digital and green economies,” it added.
The report also pushed for the need to update labor laws and institutions.
“Many new jobs have come into existence with the changing nature of work, but these often lack the employment protections necessary to ensure job security and stability. The future of work requires that policymakers are able to react quickly to changing market conditions by designing responsive and efficient labor market regulations,” it said. – Press release