Digital Skills | Emerging Trends
March 5, 2020

Challenges for skills development in India, Indonesia and Thailand

by Nicola Duell and Hitomi Nakagome

Digitalization is having a profound impact on economies and societies throughout the world.

Transformative digital technologies and innovations have resulted in an increasing demand for highly-skilled information and communication technology (ICT) specialists, both within the ICT sector as well as across other sectors in the digital economy.

It is expected that the labour markets of India, Indonesia and Thailand will be significantly affected by the growth and development of the global ICT sector as well as trends in their domestic markets.

However, due to a mismatch between the skills of graduates and job requirements in the ICT labour market as well as shortage of ICT specialists with a very high skills level at Master’s level and above, all three countries are increasingly experiencing shortages of skilled and highly-skilled ICT specialists necessary to drive the digital economy forward.

Education and skills

There is also a labour shortage of graduates with specific technical and soft skills required by the ICT industry. Workers’ representatives in all three countries expressed concern about a lack of access to training and upskilling for specific technical skills.

As digitalization continues, ICT skills will need to become universal.

The skill sets demanded of ICT specialists will undoubtedly expand and/or change as digitalization continues and as the need for soft skills, such as higher order critical thinking and analytical skills, and inter-disciplinary skills becomes ever more crucial and in demand.

In India, for example, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) estimates that 60 to 70 per cent of the current IT workforce would need to be retrained in areas such as biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and smart technologies and advanced analytical skills.

Given the rapidly changing skills requirements in the field of ICT as well as the skills gaps identified above, it is crucial that countries develop appropriate skills anticipation strategies.

Given the rapid pace of these technological advances, continuous training is of major importance for the skills development of IT specialists.

As digitalization continues, ICT skills will need to become universal. To obtain a solid foundation for the skills required in the future, education at all levels must be modernized. Schools need to equip young people with sound numeracy, literacy and digital skills, as well as soft skills such as logical thinking, creativity and communication skills.

Challenges for the education system

Reasons for skills shortage and skills gaps in all three countries include:

  • changing technological trends;
  • teaching methods at all levels of education that do not allow students to sufficiently develop their soft skills;
  • a lack of trained teachers for ICT courses;
  • a lack of IT-enabled infrastructure in many remote areas (as noted in the case of India);
  • a perceived lack of coordination between all key actors in the labour market including ministries of labour, and workers’ and employers’ organizations, and education/training institutions;
  • inability to rapidly adapt curricula to technological changes.
Skills development policies

With rapid technological change, there is a growing need for work-based training and development of new skill sets, including both technical and soft skills. In-company training may be needed to bridge the gap between skills acquired at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutes and universities, and skills needed at the workplace.

All three governments are determined to improve and mainstream TVET, in order to improve employment opportunities and tackle skills shortages of a growing labour force that is comprised mainly of young people.

Various ministries and government agencies and key stakeholders are taking action to enhance ICT education and training in three main areas:

  • improving cooperation between government, education institutions and enterprises;
  • improving the link between theoretical education and workplace training;
  • developing occupational standards.

Linking education and training policies of the government to the needs of the industry would also be important for existing ICT workers and those looking to changing jobs. Given the need for constant re-skilling and up-skilling, it has becoming increasingly important that universities and TVET institutes start providing continuous education courses.

Encouraging female participation

Approximately a third of all employees in the ICT sector in India, Indonesia and Thailand were women. Yet women in all three countries tended to be at a disadvantage in terms of career progression. This suggests that women are an underutilized talent in the ICT workforce, and potential supply of female ICT specialists could be higher with the right incentives in place.

In addition, skills development policies should place emphasis on ensuring that women are encouraged to pursue an education in STEM and other ICT related fields as a measure to increase the participation of women in ICT occupations.

Developing occupational standards

Setting common qualification standards is essential for increasing transparency and ensuring the quality and portability of qualifications. Standards create benchmarks for the recognition of prior learning, and a certification system for courses as well as for validating prior learning is a key part of the process.

All three countries have taken steps to establish professional standards for ICT specialists. However, skills strategies are not yet focused on the impacts of automation, economic and occupational restructuring, despite the potential impact on ICT occupations and job roles. To date, only a few up-skilling and re-skilling programmes exist at the vocational training level. Consequently, a large proportion of the workforce may not be well prepared to cope with economic restructuring or technological advances in the future. Given the rapid pace of these technological advances, continuous training is of major importance for the skills development of IT specialists.

*Read the full article in the Digital Skills Insights 2019 publication.

This paper draws on the research report “Skills shortages and labour migration in the field of information and communication technology in India, Indonesia and Thailand”, the first outcome of the International Labour Organization (ILO) development cooperation project entitled “The Future of Work in Information and Communication Technology” funded by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The author prepared for the research report as an external consultant of the ILO. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ILO.

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Challenges for skills development in India, Indonesia and Thailand

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