Asia’s youth must be taught skills to keep up with technology, experts say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 7:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 7:31am

Asia’s youth must be equipped with the skills to adapt to rapid advances in technology if they are to avoid unemployment, according to experts at a conference in Hong Kong.

And that may require a fundamental change in the way they are educated, delegates at the 11th Asian Financial Forum said on Tuesday.

With banks increasingly using chat bots to talk to customers, drones taking over deliveries and driverless cars being developed, the next generation need to equip themselves with the skills to adapt to the fast-shifting requirements of the jobs market.

“The pervasive changes we are seeing today are something we haven’t seen before,” said Vivek Pathak, director, East Asia & the Pacific, International Finance Corporation. “The question is do we have the skills for the jobs of tomorrow? That should concern governments and the public at large. The skills you needed to get a job 25 years ago may not be valid today.”

Without new skill sets, the younger generation could fall behind.

Hong Kong-based venture capitalist Simon Squibb last year predicted that major cities like Hong Kong, London and New York will face unemployment rates of more than 80 per cent by 2030, as artificial intelligence and robotics displace humans.

Widespread automation tipped to spur 80pc unemployment rate in HK, other major cities by 2030

In a latest milestone for AI, Alibaba Group announced its AI software had beaten humans in a global reading comprehension test on Monday, the first time machines have outperformed people.

Artificial intelligence bot beats humans at reading in a first for machines

“Capital is not a bottleneck for most of the countries in the world, and we never lack good ideas,” said Wong Kong-Kat, co-founder and vice-president of strategy at mainland mobile maker Xiaomi Technology. “The true scarcity is people with the right talent.”

Smaller businesses make up 96 per cent of all enterprises in Asean countries, creating the majority of employment opportunities and GDP contribution, with many focused on traditional industries such as trade, manufacturing and logistics. But as the world sees a technology decentralisation out of Silicon Valley, innovative developments are emerging across the globe in hubs like Shenzhen, transforming industries.

While technology advances may hurt employment in some industries, they will not eliminate jobs, Wong argued. Instead it will force the next generation to create different opportunities for themselves, with the development of new skills being essential.

“We talk about AI taking over jobs, but I believe the advancement of AI will just get rid of the repetitive work of humans, so we can use our time to do something more useful,” he said. “The advancement of AI will push people to think about the one thing they can do to make the world different.”

Access to a smartphone and the internet means anyone can use the technology being developed to educate themselves about their passion in a personalised way, helping the younger generation to prepare themselves for innovative jobs, said Nicholas Aguzin, chairman and CEO, Asia Pacific, at JPMorgan Chase.

“Kids need to prepare for the future and it will require learning in a different way,” said Aguzin. “Anyone can be educated and this is happening across all emerging economies.

“I would call it a democratisation of opportunities: there is much more access to capital, to technology and education.

“One of the solutions is to apply the same technology that is changing everything to education. The way we teach has to be more personalised.”

Pathak, Wong and Aguzin made their comments during a panel session called “Jobs of the Future – Supporting the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs”.