Workers in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) who use digital skills as part of their job generate trillions in economic benefits for their countries’ economies, while also earning higher incomes themselves, according to a new study from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Gallup.
However, the study shows that much of this potential has yet to be tapped. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of workers in the Asia Pacific region do not use a computer at work. The proportion of non-digital workers varies across the region, from as few as one-quarter of workers in Australia (24%), Singapore (26%) and New Zealand (27%) to as many as 83% of workers in India.
Of the 28% of APAC workers who use some level of digital skills at work, half use basic digital skills. Six percent of workers use intermediate digital skills, and the remaining 8% use advanced digital skills.
The 8% of APAC workers who use advanced digital skills on the job -- such as software developers and cloud architects -- add an estimated $934 billion to the region’s GDP on their own. When their economic contributions are combined with those of APAC workers who use more basic or intermediate digital skills at work -- such as email, word processing or drag-and-drop website design -- the net economic benefit of digital skills in the region totals almost $4.7 trillion per year.
These results come from a recent study conducted by Gallup in collaboration with AWS that examines the impact of digital skills on organizational performance and employee outcomes, and sheds light on the opportunity that exists across the APAC region to further drive digital transformation. As part of this research effort, Gallup surveyed more than 16,000 workers and 7,500 employers across nine countries of the APAC region between Aug. 2-23, 2022.
Digital Workers Enjoy Benefits in Addition to Higher Salaries
Much of the macroeconomic benefit created by digital workers is attributable to the higher salaries they typically earn. For example, workers in the APAC region who use advanced digital skills earn 65% more than their non-digital peers with similar education and experience levels.
In addition to earning higher salaries, workers who use advanced digital skills also express higher job satisfaction. For example, nearly eight in 10 workers who use advanced digital skills at work (79%) reported high job satisfaction, compared with 46% of those who use only basic digital skills.
Organizations That Employ Advanced Digital Workers Reap Higher Revenues, Innovation Rates
APAC organizations that rely on workers with advanced digital skills report annual revenues that are 150% higher than those that employ workers with only basic digital skills. Most of these employers (76%) introduced an innovative product within the past two years, and two-thirds (66%) enjoyed steady annual revenue growth of at least 10% in the year before the survey.
The use of cloud technology is also a critical factor in this success, with eight in 10 employers who run most of their business on the cloud introducing a new or innovative product in the past two years, and 69% reporting annual revenue growth of at least 10%. As the world becomes more technology-driven, it is essential for organizations to ensure that their employees have the necessary skills to keep up with the changing landscape and remain competitive.
Nurturing Tech Talent to Bridge the Digital Skills Gap
While investing in a tech-savvy workforce creates clear benefits, APAC employers are facing significant challenges in hiring workers with the digital skills their organization needs. More than three in four (76%) employers have job openings that require digital skills, and nearly as many (72%) report challenges in filling these positions.
Competition among employers for digital talent and macroeconomic context certainly factor into these challenges, but the tertiary qualifications requirement that many employers maintain for entry-level digital positions may also contribute to these challenges in some countries, preventing organizations from tapping into a much larger pool of qualified candidates. However, the study shows that many organizations are open to adjusting their hiring requirements: 76% of employers say digital certifications or training courses are acceptable substitutes for tertiary qualification (like a bachelor’s degree) in a relevant field.
While organizations could alleviate some hiring difficulties by allowing industry certifications to satisfy educational requirements, upskilling their current workforce may be the better solution. When asked about their interest in training for 26 digital skills -- ranging from productivity software and cloud-based tools to artificial intelligence and programming languages -- 79% of APAC digital workers said they would be “extremely interested” or “very interested” in participating in training for at least one digital skill.
While the skills themselves receive comparable levels of interest, the overall intensity of interest varies far more by country. Of the 26 skills, Indian and Thai workers express interest in additional training for 22 and 20 of those skills, respectively. Meanwhile, the average Japanese worker is interested in training for just four skills, the fewest of any country.
By providing their employees with the training and development they need, organizations can keep their workers motivated, engaged and committed to their job. Employees feel valued and appreciated when their employer invests in their personal and professional development, which can lead to greater job satisfaction and employee retention.
The study shows that advanced digital workers in APAC drive economic growth, higher job satisfaction and improved business performance.
For most organizations, investing in upskilling and reskilling their workforce is no longer an option; it's a necessity. The fast-changing nature of technology makes it imperative for organizations to rethink their approach to hiring, retaining and empowering their tech-savvy talent. By keeping their employees' skills up to date, organizations can stay ahead of the curve, maintain their competitive edge, and drive growth and innovation in the digital age.