Skills Development – a pressing development challenge. Shanti Jagannathan, Senior Education Specialist, ADB
Skills development is currently occupying center stage in development discourse– to sustain growth, increase employment, reduce inequalities, strengthen human capital and advance knowledge based economies. Unprecedented interest is directed to policies and strategies that governments and business must adopt for skills development. UNESCO is scheduled to release two major reports on skills this year: the Global Monitoring Report on Skills and the World TVET report. The OECD’s emerging Skills Strategy talks about skills as the global currency for the 21st century. The ADB’s Education by 2020: A Sector Operations Plan emphasizes strengthening quality, inclusiveness and relevant skills at levels of education. The World Bank’s recently launched Education Strategy for 2020 states that it is knowledge and skills of people, not years spent in a classroom, that contribute more to economic growth. The skills-employment nexus has become an overriding priority. The G20 Declaration of November 2011 put employment at the heart of policy action to restore growth and set up a task force to tackle youth unemployment. The special chapter on employment in the ADB’s Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2011 discusses the transition to higher quality employment as a key link to economic growth and poverty reduction in developing Asia. The Asian Development Outlook 2012 discusses rising inequality in Asia despite high growth rates. Employment intensity of growth in Asia is lower than global average and has declined in recent years. Inequality of opportunity, particularly education and skills, contributes to growing income inequality.
The writing is on the wall that a major revamp is needed in skills development and training. More of the same will not do in terms of policies and strategies. New thinking is required to handle a complex set of inter-related issues.
Education and training systems are not in step with the needs of the market as witnessed by the paradox of increasing demand for skills co-existing with skills shortages and skills mismatches. Assuring adequate employment is a pressing challenge as students of emerging from technical and vocational education and training are not finding jobs. On the one hand, there is a need for developing countries to increase the skill base of their work force to serve high technology industries and for moving up the value chain. On the other hand, with burgeoning tertiary education systems, problems of graduate unemployment are increasingly surfacing even in developing Asia, which bode ill for countries with youthful populations. The Arab Spring is seen as a possible precursor to more unrest if the youth unemployment issue is not tackled. In countries that are facing an aging population, skills will be the crucial determinant of people’s ability to stay in the labor market for a longer time. Fast growing sectors in Asia, are not necessarily offering growing employment opportunities as well. Employers are looking for not just technical skills but an array of soft skills that encompass problem solving and behavioral skills. The private sector is playing a dominant role in anticipating and contributing to skills development, calling for appropriate regulatory regimes and incentive structures for skills development. The large prevalence of informal markets poses unique challenges to skills training systems that support workers in small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs. There is a need to mesh together and bring congruence between policies for economic growth and industrial development, education and skills development and labor market and social protection. All easily said than done!
This space will provide an informal platform for individuals and professionals to discuss and deliberate upon pressing challenges and possible solutions. Exchange of experiences and practices can lead to enriching the dialogue between developed and developing countries and peer exchanges within developing nations. We look forward to an active debate on key themes and issues of interest to the community of practitioners in the skills and training sector!
- Asean integration to create new ‘growth force’, says ADB economist (business.inquirer.net)
- Asean seen as economic growth force by 2015 (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Report: Rising Income Gap Threatening Stability in Asia (voanews.com)
- UPDATE1: ADB tasked with reducing income gaps while retaining growth: president (english.kyodonews.jp)
- ADB calls on members to continue regional cooperation (english.kyodonews.jp)
- ADB urges Asia to tackle rising income gap (dawn.com)