Researcher moots foresight approach to tackle unemployment

|     James Kon     |

BRUNEI’S unemployment stands at 6.9 per cent and is higher than the Asean average of 3.3 per cent, revealed Dr Diana Cheong, Chief Researcher of Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) yesterday.

Shedding light on the rising unemployment among local youth during her talk on ‘Brunei Darussalam’s Youth Unemployment and Job Future’, organised by the French Bruneian Business Association (FBBA) at the Radisson Hotel, she said that solving youth unemployment which currently stands at 29.9 per cent has been a policy emphasised by the government as youths comprise 60-70 per cent of the total population.

A full-house of invited guests and members of the FBBA were in attendance at the talk including Christian Ramage, Ambassador of France to Brunei Darussalam and Patron of FBBA, Musa bin Haji Adnin, Honorary President of FBBA and Pierre Imhof, President of FBBA.

Highlighting two studies carried out by CSPS – Study of Unemployment Issues among Registered Job Seekers in Brunei Darussalam (2009) and Unemployment Issues among University Graduates in Brunei Darussalam (2014) – Dr Diana Cheong shared, “Policies to reduce unemployment must go beyond addressing current unemployment problems and situation. What about job futures? Our future landscape is not static and will definitely change and we need to identify potential development options with a sound foresight approach so that we can be more strategic and plan for a desirable job future for our youth.”

She explained, “Manpower planning and forecasting is not linear and fail-proof. Globally and inevitably locally, the nature and types of jobs will change dramatically. Automation (including new technology) in particular will cause loss of 40 per cent of current jobs performed by humans within the next 15 years.

Chief Researcher of CSPS, Dr Diana Cheong presenting her talk on ‘Brunei Darussalam Youth Unemployment & Job Future’. – PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI
President of FBBA, Pierre Imhof addressing the audience

“Recently, the Brunei Economic Development Board and the Prime Minister’s Office jointly formulated a list of priority industry clusters which Brunei should focus on to diversify and grow that could be a useful target for the country to project where its future jobs will be. Brunei’s priority industry clusters are Halal, business services, technology and creative industry, tourism as well as downstream oil and gas.

“Meanwhile the government has made improvements to develop Vocational Training and Education (VTE) retraining and professionalisation of manual jobs by establishing the Centre for Capacity Building, i-Ready (i-RDY) Apprenticeship Programme, new process for Foreign Workers’ Licence and the Energy Industry Competency Framework,” she pointed out.

“The future of work has been predicted to be about ‘the survival of the most adaptable’. A number of trends are affecting not just the types but also the nature of jobs globally and will affect Brunei eventually, if not already,” she added.

“With the expectation that automation will cause a loss of 40 per cent of jobs currently performed by humans, on the pessimistic side, a brave new world of work and a jobless future for the majority are now popular projections of our future. Experiments with the concept of ‘universal basic income’ whereby an income is guaranteed regardless of work status are already underway in some countries to alleviate the problem.

“On the less pessimistic side, it is argued that we will not be faced with a jobless future but new types of work will emerge although manpower planners will need to be more adaptable with dramatically changing patterns of work. New mindsets need to be developed not just among our youth but also our policymakers and employers as we will be faced with new types of jobs, and consequently, new skills and training will need to be established.

“Workers of the future will be expected to have ‘portfolio careers’ and often negotiate several roles at one time. Labour will be casualised and non-contractual, part time based, multi-tasking work will be the norm, undermining the ‘one job’ and ‘job for life’ narratives that we have inherited. Office-based jobs will disappear and the concept of a nine-five-hour-day work will be replaced with flexible working hours, home-based work and crowd sourcing.

“Given such trends, manpower planners, education providers and employers will indeed require to look into a range of future and alternative possibilities and a paradigm shift in thinking and approach,” Dr Diana Cheong said.