One of Singapore's most prominent job experts revealed why Asia's workforce is at a crossroads right now

WongsuyenHCLIWong Su-yen, CEO of HCLI spoke to Business Insider during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Asia is experiencing an “immense war for talent.”

That’s according to one of the most prominent employment experts in Singapore — The Human Capital Leadership Institute’s (HCLI) CEO Wong Su-Yen.

Cheap labour costs and a high level of digital skills mean the Asia’s workers are highly sought after in the West.

On top of this, Asian companies are looking to increasingly expand overseas, making retaining talent in the region even more difficult.

The World Economic Forum revealed in a mammoth report this week that the immense development and use of technology is going to finish off millions of jobs and in turn the only big growth area for global employment will be in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) jobs.

It is for this reason that Wong of HCLI, which is a unit jointly-created by the Singapore government’s Ministry of Manpower (MUM), Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and Singapore Management University (SMU) to develop employment and skills, revealed to Business Insider in an interview during the WEF’s annual meeting that Asia’s workforce is at a crossroads and countries need to find better ways to develop talent and promote international mobility.

“Asia has been, and will continue to be, a significant contributor to global growth,” said Wong to Business Insider. “Faced with anaemic growth rates in their home markets, US and European multinationals have looked to the East as it evolves from being a low cost production base, to an attractive market in its own right that is home to a rapidly growing middle class.

“At the same time, Asian companies are looking to globalise and expand into markets beyond their home turf. Taken together, this has led to an immense war for talent in Asia in recent years.”

Wong’s comments coincide with the conference’s theme of “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which is looking at how technology is reshaping the world.

Alongside business school INSEAD and HR services titan Adecco, HCLI, released the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI), which is an annual study based on research on “Talent Attraction and International Mobility.”

She says that “mobility of talent is a key solution to balance surpluses and deficits of skills across the world.”

“As connectivity increases, technology and globalisation often go hand in hand. Hence, besides digital awareness, executives and CEOs would do well to develop a strong grasp of global market dynamics, regulatory regimes, customer behaviour, and cultural nuances in order to capitalise on the opportunities that digitisation enables,” she added.

“In Asia, there is a significant focus on developing Asian leaders that have the ability to take on regional and global roles. Similarly, companies have a great interest in ensuring that expatriates are equipped to lead effectively in the region. The HCLI was established for precisely these reasons – to develop insights on leadership and human capital in Asia, and to develop leaders for and from Asia.

“Recent research published by the HCLI similarly indicates that the lack of mobility among ASEAN talent has led to a mismatch between required skills and the current skillset possessed by executives.”

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