Career Development, Entrepreneurship, and Learning Opportunities Matter

Published 5 December 2018

LinkedIn has released its inaugural Opportunity Index that seeks to understand perceptions of opportunity in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region in 2018. The research surveyed over 11,000 respondents in nine markets, including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore.

A PWC report looking at the World in 2050, recognises the Asian Century will not just be built by China and India, but by other vibrant economies in the region, including Malaysia. Indeed the growth of emerging and developing economies offers great opportunities, with the OECD reporting that China will have the highest growth rate among the countries up until 2020, but will then be overtaken by both India and Indonesia.

With six of the seven largest economies in the world projected to be emerging economies in 2050, led by China (1st), India (2nd) and Indonesia (4th) (PWC), there are interesting parallels in LinkedIn’s report that in APAC, people in Indonesia and India are most confident about opportunities to get ahead.

Economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce

LinkedIn is changing the talent landscape through its professional network. It is not only disrupting how we attract and develop talent but, but how we identify future skill development needs. What is compelling is the data points that support its vision to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce”. In APAC, LinkedIn has more than 153 million members, making it a useful compass in understanding both developed and developing economies in Asia-Pacific.

Olivier Legrand, Managing Director, LinkedIn Asia Pacific, shares,

“We believe that access to opportunity should be universal for everyone.

With the inaugural LinkedIn Opportunity Index, our aim is to gain an insight into the aspirations of people across the Asia Pacific region, how they feel about the opportunities they want to pursue, as well as the barriers that may stand in their way. The growing workforce in the region is a key asset that, if harnessed effectively, is going to continue to drive the economies. Over time, by tracking people’s perception of opportunity and the barriers they face, we hope we can continue to facilitate more of a balance between demand and supply in the opportunity marketplace”.

The most optimistic countries are in developing markets

Two rapidly developing markets in the region, Indonesia and India take the top two spots on the LinkedIn Opportunity Index – driven by people’s confidence in their economic growth potential, as well as their confidence in gaining access to pursuing opportunities they identified as important.

On the other hand, the more developed markets such as Japan, Hong Kong and Australia, trailed in the Index as people in these markets expressed concerns over the economic outlook, and generally felt more cautious about their chances of accessing and achieving success with opportunities relevant to them.

Prof Dr Tan Ern Ser, Associate Professor of Sociology from the National University of Singapore commented,

“Opportunity is essentially a means to an end, and as we have different goals and aspirations in life, we would probably see the opportunities available to us from different perspectives and with different priorities.

It’s also interesting that the LinkedIn Opportunity Index revealed an underlying pattern: greater optimism from developing markets, and less from the developed markets. This raises the question, should developed markets, therefore, chase a ‘good-enough’ life’ rather than a ceiling-less good life? The question is quite pertinent as the study suggests that work-life balance is an aspiration of most people in APAC”.

Career advancement, entrepreneurship and learning opportunities matter, but less optimal finances and networks stand in the way

Across APAC, there is a strong desire to get ahead in life through career advancement, building a business, and acquiring new skills. These top three areas for opportunity were cited by about 15 per cent of respondents.

Conversely, the top barriers to access and realising opportunity was financial status (30 per cent), followed by a lack of strong network and connections (22 per cent). Other roadblocks include a difficult job market (19 per cent), lack of required professional skills (18 per cent) and a lack of direction and guidance (18 per cent).

Perhaps not surprisingly, the top three cited barriers for aspiring and current entrepreneurs was financial status (48 per cent), lack of connection (28 per cent) and fear of failure (21 per cent).

In Japan and the Philippines, factors that are more innate or psychological to people, such as fear of failure and lack or confidence ranked high as barriers to opportunities – almost a quarter of respondents put these barriers in second and third highest spots.

APAC respondents believe diligence is the currency to getting ahead in life

While 90 per cent of APAC respondents believe in working hard to get ahead in life, an almost equal number feel that knowing the right people or having the right connections (85 per cent) and having equal access to opportunities (83 per cent) are important.

Close on the heels of these factors are a willingness to embrace change and level of education, both at 81 per cent of respondents.

2 in 3 respondents in APAC feel “good luck” also plays a part in getting them ahead in life. Within the region, people in Hong Kong (77%), Japan (76%) and China (77%) feel most strongly about this.

Work-life balance is an aspiration of how APAC respondents embark on the opportunity

A significant 40 per cent of respondents, indicated a good work-life balance as their ultimate aspiration. This is strongly echoed by respondents in Singapore (48 per cent), Australia (46 per cent), Malaysia and the Philippines (both 44 per cent).

More than 35 per cent of respondents want to be able to utilise their skills. “Learning a new skill” and “learning a new technology” was cited by 30 and 23 per cent of respondents, respectively. Respondents recognise that with jobs rapidly evolving, and the prospect of displacement from AI/automation and other shifts in the labour ecosystem, they need to upskill to stay relevant.

In Indonesia and the Philippines, more than half of respondents consider “starting my own business” perhaps demonstrating the thriving entrepreneurial cultural spirit amongst developing economies. In Singapore, 24 per cent want to start their own venture, while respondents in Australia (13 per cent), Hong Kong (13 per cent) and Japan, (7 per cent) are least likely to embark on entrepreneurial ventures.

“The barriers to realising opportunities in life are very real, and despite the diversity of the Asia Pacific region, there are more similarities than differences when it comes to our hopes and aspirations. The good news is that no matter what opportunities mean for each of us, we can count on our community for help. Whether it is learning a new skill, networking or sharing guidance, we can help one another to unlock and create opportunities”, concludes Legrand.

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