Mind the digital gap in Asia’s post-COVID economy: Davos panelists

Mind the digital gap in Asia’s post-COVID economy: Davos panelists

Singapore minister and others stress workforce upskilling for ‘inclusive growth’

SINGAPORE — Technology and telecommuting are transforming the way industries work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But governments must ensure the new era does not widen the economic divide between the digitally skilled and unskilled, prominent figures from Asia cautioned in this week’s online Davos Agenda meetings.

“You’ve got to ensure that that doesn’t lead to a greater inequality, between the knowledge professionals and others who can easily adapt to remote work, and the blue collar workers and others who really need to be at work,” warned Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s senior minister and former deputy prime minister, in a panel discussion on Monday titled “Restoring Economic Growth.”

Shanmugaratnam said many businesses will not revert to the old style centered on face-to-face interactions, and that a sort of “hybrid economy” is taking shape in which people sometimes meet in person but remote work is here to stay.

“Adapting a whole workforce to the use of digital technologies, to be able to make the most of their own jobs with these technologies is extremely important,” he stressed. Governments’ task, he added, is to work with businesses to help the workforce adjust — enabling “a new phase of inclusive growth.”