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UKABC Digital Conversation Series – The Future of Work in Southeast Asia


UKABC’s Digital Conversation on The Future of Work in Southeast Asia

In 1589, English inventor William Lee created the first mechanical knitting machine, but he was denied a patent because of concern that his invention would make thousands of English hand-knitters unemployed.

Future-proofing the workforce is nothing new, but with the fourth industrial revolution and finding ourselves in the midst of a pandemic it has forced a re-think on ways of working. This discussion will explore what the future of work looks like across Southeast Asia and what skills are needed to ensure economic resilience and inclusivity with experts from the UK and Southeast Asia.  

This Digital Conversation is brought to you with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, the voice of business in Southeast Asia. The council, made up of representatives appointed by the Heads of State of each ASEAN country, provides formal recommendations to the ASEAN Leaders to promote trade and enhance economic integration and cooperation.


Welcome remarks by co-hosts:

  • Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Chair, UKABC
  • Dr Doan Duy Khuong, Chair, ASEAN BAC

Opening comments by The Hon. Ar Yanty Rahman, Co-Chair ASEAN BAC, Legislative Council Member Brunei and ASEAN Future Workforce Council.

The Future of Work

What does the future of work look like? How can businesses in ASEAN adapt to enhance their competitiveness? What needs to be done to provide the right skills now for the jobs of the future?

In conversation with:

  • Jonathan Ledger, TVET Specialist, Department for International Trade
  • Cindy Rampersaud, Executive Board Director and Senior Vice President, Pearson
  • Anthony Thompson, Executive Board Director and Head of Asia, PageGroup
  • Robert Yap, President, Singapore National Employers Federation, Chairman YCH Group and ASEAN BAC Member.

Moderated by Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Chair of the UK-ASEAN Business Council


Sustained and inclusive economic growth is dependent on a workforce that is skilled and adaptable to the changing nature of organisations.

The fourth industrial revolution will displace workers across the region creating large numbers of redundancies, with technology solutions generating greater efficiencies with reduced manpower. The coronavirus could accelerate this trend of technological disruption in Southeast Asia.

On the other hand, the growing middle class and new investments in emerging industries will offset job displacement. However, unless workforces are ‘future-proofed’ many workers will lack the skills needed for these new areas of work, stalling growth and creating social challenges.

Workforce transformation will require a clear understanding of the needs of employers who are changing the way they operate in a new environment. A well trained, constantly learning workforce can contribute to sustained economic growth. The challenge will be in ensuring economic development leads to inclusive growth. The public and private sector should collaborate to ensure the workforce of today are ready for the jobs of the future.

Areas of discussion

  • As ASEAN moves up the value chain, what are the key emerging industries in ASEAN and what skills are needed to support them?
  • How are companies planning for a ‘new normal’ of work?
  • Will firms that are innovating and motivating their teams rather than, firing now and hiring later, emerge stronger?
  • How has technology changed skills development? Will lifelong learning become a necessity of the new normal?
  • Looking ahead, what are the demographic change and climate change challenges to watch out for?

Further reading

Preparing for the future of work: National policy responses in ASEAN +6. International Labour Organisation

The Future of Work Across ASEAN. Asia Foundation and Microsoft

ASEAN Youth Technology, Skills and the Future of Work. World Economic Forum

Technology and the future of ASEAN jobs. CISCO and Oxford Economics

This Digital Conversation will begin at 08.30 in the UK / 14.30 in Hanoi / 15.30 in Singapore. It is free to attend, please register in the link below.

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