High demand for human skills in Southeast Asia’s major job markets

Photo by Artem Podrez

Pearson has revealed results from recent research showing that the top five most in-demand skills today are human skills despite new technologies transforming the world of work which is set to continue through at least 2026.

Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia are likely to be affected by the threat of recession in countries like the United States and Australia due to its impact on tourism and trade, consequently putting more pressure on local businesses and employees.

In this period of economic uncertainty, businesses are looking for employees who can stay relevant and versatile, and those that fail to upskill will get left behind by the more prepared and adaptable. The Great Resignation brought about by the pandemic along with the waves of retrenchment has also ushered further uncertainty, creating a job market where only the fittest would survive and thrive.

A World Economic Forum study highlights that over a billion people globally will need reskilling to keep up with the evolving demands of the workforce by 2030. To help organizations and individuals successfully navigate through the recession, Pearson has conducted a study of the key skills that employers are looking for and training.

Using an analysis of more than 21 million job ads globally, Pearson’s Skills Snapshot identifies today’s new ‘power skills’ – the capabilities now powering the world’s economy and individual careers. The analysis shows that while technical capabilities remain essentially crucial for many roles, employers highly prize human skills such as collaboration, communication, and leadership.

According to Pearson’s Skills Outlook, the five skills that today’s employers look for the most are all human skills:

  • Communication
  • Customer Focus
  • Leadership
  • Attention to Detail
  • Collaboration

As we move towards a new, hybrid style of working, Pearson’s predictive AI modelling tool suggests that the top five power skills that will be most in-demand to meet the economic need in 2026 are also human skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Customer Focus
  • Personal Learning
  • Achievement Focus
  • Cultural and Social Intelligence

“It is surprising to see that the most critical skills needed in the workforce today and in the future are in fact human skills,” explained Dr Richard George, Vice President, Data Science, Workforce Skills at Pearson.

“Swift investment is needed, as a strong foundation of human skills is essential for success for employers and employees. As the adoption of new technologies continues, the importance of non-technical skills such as the ability to learn and cultural and social intelligence is only becoming more important.

“Organisations that recognise this and invest in helping employees build transferable and flexible capabilities are the ones that will thrive in our changing world.” 

“Although technical skills are increasingly high in demand, technological advancement can often render these skills obsolete or unique to specific job scopes,” he continued.

“For instance, the Great Recession of 2008 brought about a major shift in skill requirements for that time. Skills such as analysis and data savviness became high in demand and those companies invested time and resources into upskilling or rehiring. Even in tech roles, human skills allow employees to be agile and adaptable in their learning.”

Pearson also emphasised the relevance of Power Skills to the Southeast Asian market. In fast-paced markets like Singapore, personal learning and achievement focus help employees differentiate themselves from the rest.

Additionally, cross-border and intraregional collaboration is a common part of job scopes, especially in multinational corporations. Collaboration skills as well as Cultural and Social Intelligence help employees thrive in such situations. The ability to learn is proving to be a critical skill for career and workplace growth.