Can ASEAN Expand Vocational Training to Help Workers Survive Automation and AI?


William "Whit" Lloyd

Asia Pacific Issues, No. 146


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: December 2020
Binding: paper
Pages: 8
Free Download: PDF


The countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have cumulatively vaulted from the world’s seventh-largest economy to the fifth, in 2019, in only three years. But several challenges threaten future economic growth. Chief among them is demographic change: populations across ASEAN are aging and birthrates are declining. One outcome will be labor shortages. The shrinking labor pool could serve as a strong driver for automation. But while automation may reduce input costs and boost growth, it could change the skills employers desire, resulting in the obsolescence of many low-skilled jobs, leaving current workers without the skills necessary to obtain work. Upskilling labor through vocational education and related programs is the obvious response. But ASEAN education systems have never included significant vocational opportunities. With technological change accelerating, ASEAN states will need help with the herculean task of rapidly remodeling their education systems.