Skills mismatch, tech disconnect: Why 10 million Gen-Z Indonesians sit around

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2024

A lack of opportunities for Generation Z Indonesians, or those born in the late 90s and first decade of this century, may result in income loss and higher crime rates, experts warn.

Almost 10 million Indonesians of the Generation Z age group, or those born in the late 1990s and first decade of this century, are unemployed and not enrolled in education or training (NEET), according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS).

Around 5.72 million women and 4.16 million men find themselves in such a state of limbo, which experts say could push some of them into crime to make ends meet.

University of Indonesia demographer Dewa Wisana has identified some of the challenges Indonesians of the Gen-Z cohort, or “Zoomers”, encounter that contribute to their plight and cause many to remain inactive.

The first of these, he noted, was the structural transition from a manufacturing-based economy to one dominated by the service sector.

Second, many Indonesian Gen-Zers were struggling to transition from academia to the workforce owing to unpredictable events, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

Third, there was a growing demand for qualifications that Gen-Zers often failed to bring to the job market.

“Many business sectors, particularly service-oriented ones, rely heavily on technological expertise. Unfortunately, a significant number of individuals struggle to acquire proficiency in these particular skills and technologies,” Dewa said.

“For instance, if we look at workplaces, they are starting to demand that people [have] computer skills including coding, data analytics and [sophisticated] internet use […] People are using the Internet of Things (IoT) because the business world has moved toward automation. Yet, not all Gen Zers have mastered this.”

According to Bob Azam, head of employment at the Indonesian Employers Association (APINDO), one reason why many Zoomers remain unemployed is that the job offers they get do not match their education, and they desire higher-value jobs.

“It seems that, in Indonesia, there is a lack of development in [employment fields] that require higher education for graduates,” Bob said, continuing that most jobs in Indonesia were still informal.

Dewa added that a shortage of soft skills, including basic tasks such as presenting and communicating within teams, further eroded Gen-Zer's employability.

“There is a gap in leadership, presentation and communication. [This is problematic], considering that they typically have to work together in teams,” Dewa said.

Sometimes, Dewa said, their socioeconomic status kept Gen-Zers from developing skills, including soft skills.

“Some have privileges, some have access to superior education, technology, etc., others don’t, and some are far from the business centres – the job offers aren’t that great,” he said.

“Gen Z lives in a technological age. I call them digital natives. Digital natives have their own culture and style, which often causes conflict with older generations,” he said, adding that Zoomers were misunderstood by the people around them because of such things.

According to Eko Listiyanto of the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF), industrial sectors were growing too slowly, leaving a large number of Gen Zers unemployed.

This is exacerbated by a lack of vocational training. Employee training is a costly undertaking that many businesses skimp on, and they are particularly reluctant to train Gen-Z staff because they see them as too prone to changing employment.

“When the economy is only slowly growing, like it is now, the industry doesn’t always want to [take on inexperienced staff], because it costs money, such as in the form of recruitment costs,” Eko said.

He said businesses, the central government and regional governments should all be involved in training. Those who live far from business and industry hubs should be able to get the training they need to achieve the skills the market requires.

“Since they [Gen-Zers] are fast learners, especially if they are digital natives, Gen-Z offers real new opportunities that businesses currently might not be aware of,” Eko said.

Bob from APINDO referred to Singapore’s special committee focused on preparing the shift toward a digital economy, resulting in the replacement of traditional jobs with digital ones, as one way to connect Gen-Zers with the labour market.

“There is ample government funding available for individuals to pursue upskilling or reskilling, enabling them to transition smoothly between jobs. Furthermore, educational institutions transform to ensure they offer the necessary education for upskilling and reskilling,” he said.

Indonesia’s government is not sitting on its hands but working to help Gen-Zers find employment, insists Susiwijono Moegiarso, secretary of the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister.

“We have launched several programs to encourage [investment in] sectors that require a lot of labour. We have implemented an upskilling and reskilling program. […] There are various instruments available in different countries, such as the ones offered by us and Singapore. We have a long list of tasks ahead of us, with numerous projects that can be tackled,” Suswijoyo said.

Yohana Belinda

The Jakarta Post

Asia News Network