Asean youth upbeat but guarded about technology: Survey

Mr Santitarn Sathirathai, Group Chief Economist at Sea (centre), said: "It is encouraging to see strong entrepreneurial drive among Asean youth, with one-quarter wanting to start their own business."
Mr Santitarn Sathirathai, Group Chief Economist at Sea (centre), said: "It is encouraging to see strong entrepreneurial drive among Asean youth, with one-quarter wanting to start their own business." PHOTO: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

HANOI - Youth in Asean are mostly optimistic about the impact of technology on the job market and many aspire to be self-employed, a survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Singapore-based internet company Sea has found.

Almost 52 per cent of the under-35 generation surveyed said they believe technology will increase jobs, while 67 per cent said it will increase their ability to earn higher incomes.

At the country-level, however, not everyone is upbeat.

Respondents from Singapore were the least optimistic about the impact of technology, based on the findings released here on Tuesday (Sept 11) at the start of the World Economic Forum on Asean.

Only 31 per cent of Singapore youths believed that technology will increase the number of jobs, compared to 54 per cent in Indonesia and 60 per cent in the Philippines, the survey found.

Some 53 per cent of the young Singaporeans felt that technology would in fact reduce the number of jobs available, the largest proportion among the six Asean countries surveyed.

Meanwhile, some 47 per cent of Singapore youths said technology will increase their earning power, compared to those in countries like Indonesia (72 per cent) and Vietnam (73 per cent).

The poll involved 64,000 citizens in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, using Sea's online games and e-commerce platforms Garena and Shopee.

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and self-driving vehicles will bring significant disruption to the job market," said Mr Justin Wood, WEF's Head of Asia Pacific.

"No one knows yet what impact these technologies will have on jobs and salaries. Globally there is concern that technological change may bring rising inequality and joblessness. But in Asean, the sentiment seems to be more positive," he told media attending a briefing session on the survey.

The survey authors said the age of respondents and level of education shaped their beliefs. This could be a reason why Singapore respondents were the least optimistic about the impact of technology on jobs, as many of them were above the median age and more educated.

But many Singapore respondents showed a desire to be their own boss, like their Asean counterparts. Some 15 per cent of those in Singapore are self-employed, but 20 per cent want to be their own boss.

In Thailand, 26 per cent are self-employed, but 36 per cent desire to be so in future. In Vietnam, 19 per cent are self-employed but 25 per cent want to be so.

Mr Santitarn Sathirathai, Group Chief Economist at Sea, said: "It is encouraging to see strong entrepreneurial drive among Asean youth, with one-quarter wanting to start their own business."

Many in the under-35 generation who work in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) do not wish to work for one in future - 17 per cent are in an SME, but only 7 per cent would like to continue working in one.

This means many of the region's entrepreneurs will face problems finding talent to scale up their businesses, Mr Sathirathai added.

He told The Straits Times that the responses from the youth will redefine Asean's working landscape in the next five to 10 years.

The lines between public and private sectors will be blurred, and many might experiment with two or three careers in their lifetime.

"Salaried jobs may not be as sought after," he said.