Addressing the COVID-19 employment crisis in APAC with the region’s PES
Can the combined expertise and experience of four APAC Public Employment Services help solve the current COVID-19 related employment crisis? WCC hosted a virtual round table with senior representatives in the Public Employment Services (PES) of Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam as part of WCC’s ongoing commitment to supporting global PES. Our goal is to encourage the exchange of experiences and ideas, helping the PES become more agile in their approach to workforce development, responding more quickly to the changing needs of their economies.
The roundtable provided a platform to explore the challenges each country faces with unemployment, including skill gaps and training deficits – particularly in the wake of COVID-19. By adopting this collaborative approach, both WCC and the APAC PES could learn from one another and discover effective and practical long-term solutions to the employment crisis.
While the experiences of the APAC PES differ, there is much common ground. In this blog, we reveal the key findings of the roundtable with a particular focus on trends in labor market strategies, identifying barriers to digital transformation, and addressing inequalities in the workforce.
COVID-19 Pandemic – Key Impacts and Trends in the APAC Region
The pandemic has highlighted the high percentages of informal unemployment across the APAC region and the need to urgently address the inadequate protection of casual workers and vulnerable workforce members.
Prior to the pandemic, progress towards digital transformation was slow. However, PES have been working hard to provide access to online learning and training opportunities to confront disparities in education and training, particularly for younger people severely impacted by the employment crisis.
The roundtable attendees identified the need for global PES to prioritize re-employment strategies rather than focusing on short-term financial support such as furlough schemes. They acknowledged they had experienced some success with mitigating the impact of the pandemic, including the introduction of employer incentive schemes, virtual job fairs, and programs to develop entrepreneurship and encourage retraining. However, it was clear that a more unified and structured approach is needed to build a sustainable labor market – and technology was central to finding a solution to the employment crisis.
Accelerating digital transformation in APAC PES
Both digital transformation and access to digital training are priorities, according to the APAC PES representatives. A key solution in this area is adopting targeted, AI-driven job matching software based on labor market knowledge and taxonomies. This technology enables jobseekers to connect with relevant and sustainable employment opportunities – including alternative career paths – all with a minimum of intervention from PES. It also helps PES to identify skills or training gaps and so proactively reskill and upskill the unemployed, boost workforce development and mitigate future deficits.
The roundtable also identified the democratization of technologies and access to digital platforms and tools as crucial to a successful digital transformation. To optimize the benefits of technological advances, appropriate technologies must be available to all citizens. A few of the roundtable attendees had already increased access to online training provision, recognizing the potential to reach millennials. Although more must be done to resolve the employment crisis, accessible and engaging online training can play a vital role in the ongoing digital transformation in APAC territories.
Another vital element in accelerating digital transformation and democratizing digital access is digitizing the recruitment process. After all, there is little point in using intelligent algorithms to match citizens with jobs unless systems are available to alert citizens of vocational opportunities or if candidates cannot ultimately attend the interviews.
During the lockdown, the Philippines PES had addressed the challenge of increasing knowledge and engagement with re-employment opportunities by launching its youth employment program in a digital format. Furthermore, the country held several job fairs, facilitating meetings between jobseekers and businesses seeking new personnel. As the world continues to operate while suffering movement restrictions, these initiatives can provide an essential blueprint for other PES around the globe.
When it comes to the candidate selection process, the roundtable attendees identified virtual interviews as an effective solution to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. This approach helps reduce bottlenecks in the recruitment processes and makes re-employment quicker and less resource-intensive.
Harnessing powerful data insights to boost employment
While all the above re-employment activities are valuable, the critical piece of the puzzle that brings all the digital transformation efforts together is a regular and thorough analysis of employment data. Segmentation of this data by geographical area as well as a variety of demographics – age, gender, education level etc. is essential – providing crucial insights into the labor market. These insights can be mapped to relevant employment strategies, identifying skill shortages and training gaps. It can even help to anticipate future skill gaps or educational needs.
For example, the PES in Malaysia (Perkeso) was able to identify citizens aged 40 and above, together with those in vulnerable groups who were less likely to find sustainable employment. As a result, Perkeso is now targeting employers who are open to hiring someone in these demographics. They are also using their data to target employers with incentives to offer apprenticeship schemes to graduates and younger age groups and encourage businesses to avail themselves of financial support for training schemes.
Creating opportunity from an employment crisis
While there was a strong focus on providing financial support for both citizens and businesses in the wake of the pandemic, there is also a collective recognition of opportunities created by the employment crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. There are opportunities to capitalize on the momentum that the urgency for digital transformation has brought about. Global PES have been stretched and tested by the pandemic and forced to be far more resilient, far more quickly than they could ever have imagined. These pressures have led them to adopt new working methods, tools, and approaches that could have otherwise taken many months or even years to accommodate.
As the roundtable attendees and hosts acknowledged, now is the time to harness all that ingenuity, flexibility, and creativity and build a more resilient labor market. And with the right technology, insights, and tools to support them, the future for global PES is looking much brighter.
If you want more information, don’t hesitate to contact us and set up a call with our Employment experts.