The future of jobs brings both promise and uncertainty to young people in developing Asia. Labor experts recently coined the term “automation anxiety” to describe the fear of losing employment opportunities to automation, particularly for low-skilled labor in countries like India, with a young population but many young people seemingly stuck in low-skill, low-productivity jobs.
Many young Asians already feel left behind due to technology, and worry that the work they do today may no longer exist in the future. However, there are platforms for young people to understand their place in the changing jobs landscape to help create a future in which they can feel more prepared for the looming uncertainty.
Automation anxiety was one of the topics discussed at this year’s 6th Asian Youth Forum (AYF6). Bringing over 400 representatives from across Asia and the Pacific under the theme Building the Workforce of the Future, AYF6 tackled issues in youth unemployment and how youth can best prepare and “skill up” to adapt to the shifting labor market demands.
The forum served as a collaborative opportunity for youth to exchange knowledge about the uniqueness and similarities of each country’s labor market, creating a greater sense of awareness and preparedness for the youth participants.
Ensuring that young people are prepared for future changes in the labor market is not just one stakeholder’s responsibility, specifically the private sector. When young people see how governments, civil society, and young people themselves all have a crucial role to play in making decent work accessible to youth, the burden and dependence on a single stakeholder is lessened.
A multi-stakeholder perspective allows young people to become agents of change for themselves, and in synergy with other stakeholders, as they collaboratively build the workforce of the future.
When young people witness more people and peers pitching in to improve the future for everyone, the fear of being left behind becomes less so. The future then presents more possibilities to engage and collaborate toward creating a more prepared and resilient workforce.
The key message of this AYF6 was based on the understanding that young people are not merely beneficiaries riding the changing economic tides of the region. Instead, they must be engaged as partners in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth in developing Asia, especially through creating greater access to decent work.
Young people themselves can shift the tide and future of the workforce in their favor. For instance, AYF6 highlighted the importance of exploring youth entrepreneurship as a youth-led means of creating jobs sustainably. Melina Sarmiento, the forum’s participant from Timor-Leste, believed that with their creativity and ingenuity, the young people can become co-creators and builders of future employment.
At the forum, young people and stakeholders representing various sectors came together, and deepened their understanding of the realities, uncertainties, and promises of the future of work. Key to this understanding is a mutual agreement that each individual and stakeholder is part and parcel of ensuring everyone will not be left behind in the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Finally, young people are not passive recipients of the current circumstances and realities, especially in accessing decent work. They have both the capacity and the responsibility to build a brighter and more sustainable future of work, in collaboration with stakeholders that are equally committed to closing the youth employment gap in the region.
The bottom line is that youth are part of the solution, so we cannot leave young people out of the conversation about the jobs they will be able to get in the future. It’s the only way to realistically reduce their automation anxiety.