ASEAN, UNICEF, ILO regional dialogue delivers joint recommendation to advance region’s youth
Discussions focus on steps needed to help young people across ASEAN find decent work amidst rapidly changing employment environment.
The ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC), UNICEF, and International Labour Organization (ILO), with support from UNDP, UNESCO, and UN Women has concluded the Breaking Barriers, Building Futures: ASEAN Regional Dialogue on Young People’s Skills, Employability and Transition to Decent Work.
The two-day regional dialogue resulted in a joint recommendation which highlights the need for increased collaborations, including with the private sector and young people themselves, to advance equal opportunities for the region’s youth.
“In line with ASEAN Leaders’ strategic commitments of promoting meaningful youth participation, human resource development and transition to green economy, the involvement of stakeholders is pivotal in ensuring that all labour and education policies and initiatives will be inclusive and fully beneficial to the ASEAN young people especially those who are vulnerable and live in underserved areas,” said Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Ekkaphab Phanthavong in his opening remarks.
Further, Deputy Regional Director of UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Myo Zin-Nyunt mentioned, “it is imperative that we work with young people as equal partners to ensure they are shaping this agenda, informing future policies and leading solutions in their communities.”
“This regional dialogue is a bold step in ensuring that they are at the centre of the conversation and are enabled to influence and engage in meaningful dialogues on how to build a better path to productive employment and decent work,” he added.
Meanwhile, in her opening remarks, Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Regional Director of ILO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, said, “ASEAN’s youth require an integrated policy response in the form of national youth employment strategies that are gender-responsive and tailored to their needs and aspirations. With rapidly advancing technologies, changing climate, and shifting demographics, the need for a smooth transition to productive employment and decent work for young people in ASEAN cannot be overstated.”
The two-day event, held at ASEC, brought together more than 150 representatives from governments, UN agencies, youth, the private sector and workers’ and employers’ organizations. Thirty-one youth from all ASEAN Member States and Timor-Leste participated as speakers, delegates, rapporteurs, and reactors, and highlighted the skills and jobs they need in a rapidly changing work environment.
Youth in the Asia-Pacific region continue to face pressing and persistent labour market challenges that are reflected in low wages, informal employment and lack of access to decent work. Rapid digital and green transitions mean that youth, particularly young women, need flexible, market-oriented skills and decent work to ensure equal opportunities and access to the labour market.
The dialogue adopted a lifecycle approach to youth skills and employment, while emphasising the importance of green and digital skills and jobs in contemporary education systems and labour markets. It also put the spotlight on key gender barriers faced by adolescent girls and young women, reinforcing ASEAN’s commitment to gender equality. Discussions focused on four thematic areas, including inclusive, future-ready education; skills development and employability; youth employment and labour market transitions for a human-centred recovery; and entrepreneurship.
Gender equality, green and digital skills and jobs featured prominently in all discussions. The event was endorsed by the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth as an initiative under the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2021-2025 and ILO-ASEAN Work Programme 2022-2025.