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Why the Frontline Workforce of the Global South Need To Be Reimagined

Power of Ideas
Why the Frontline Workforce of the Global South Need To Be Reimagined

Today, Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are on the forefront of becoming the power centers and the new extended supply chain (outside of China) of the global economy and have a track record of being resilient despite global headwinds, given the sure size of domestic consumption and growth. With fast growing tech and manufacturing capabilities, these countries have a unique opportunity to dominate as leading global economies. The only way they can unlock their potential is by streamlining their workforce and upskilling them with the power of technology.

One in three workers in the world today come from APAC and GCC countries. With 1.03 billion workers, they are not only the single largest group in the world but also one of the most cost effective. Wages in APAC and GCC countries are approximately 87 percent lower than that of European countries and around 85 percent lower than North American countries. Moreover, labor productivity in APAC countries increased by 2.9 percent, while it only increased by 0.7 percent in Europe.

We are far from unlocking the true potential of the Global South economies. According to International Labour Organization data, more than 68 percent of the labor force in APAC work in the informal economy, which not only leaves workers without benefits that are essential for sustainable livelihood but also hinders overall productivity growth.

To reimagine our frontline workers, we need to focus on interventions that increase workforce earnings and double the labor productivity to offset increasing wage earnings on the other. We must democratize opportunities in our labor market through a three-pronged approach.

APAC and GCC countries have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to digital adoption.

1. Solve Information Asymmetries with the Help of Artificial Intelligence

An informal workforce leads to massive information asymmetries around opportunities. There is a huge supply of and demand for workers, but there appears to be a shortage on both sides. Individual platform companies have tried democratizing gig jobs, but larger marketplace innovations are needed.

In India, for example, linking employment data to identification numbers can be the first major step in creating this large database. The next step would be to provide platform-based startups access to these data. Startups can use their proprietary algorithms to target this pool with specific jobs suited to their skill sets. With artificial intelligence (AI), platform companies can also help enterprises easily onboard these workers into their companies and get them to work in no time.

2. Upskilling

High-quality employment data will also give startups and platform companies insight into the skill sets that the workers lack. Take the case of Indonesia. Despite being the largest economy in Southeast Asia, it has the slowest productivity and wage growth rates at 2 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively. This is largely because of the lack of skilled workers in the country. The country’s tech companies can use tech to create specific skills courses that are delivered right to the user’s mobile devices to bring them up to speed with certain fundamental skills. These will help the workers get an entry into the workforce and from there increase their learnings on the job. AI can help scale the process further. Upskilling modules can be automatically generated and translated to reach different audiences in different languages, magnifying the impact of the courses.

Using this approach, modules can be made intuitive, empowering workers to complete the course and gain the necessary skills. What we have noticed is that workers who finish a skilling module are twice as likely to get hired and four times as likely to continue their learning efforts.

3. Connecting Workers Globally

Once we have a skilled workforce, the final step would be to provide them the opportunity to participate in the global workforce. Just like India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is being taken to other countries, a unified platform of workforce must be made accessible to other countries, starting from the countries that have the highest demand for workers from the Global South. Visa processes must be integrated into this platform to enable seamlessness of workforce migration.

At the core of this transformation is the need to adopt technology for the frontline workforce. APAC and GCC countries have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to digital adoption. It is time to leverage this to optimize the workforce. Integrating tech and AI into how we manage our workers will bring in a new era that is designed to not only elevate their livelihood but also deeply integrate them into the global workforce ecosystem.