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Asia-Pacific’s highly skilled digital workers earn up to 65% more than their peers, survey shows

Young Asia couple remote work at home, A couple freelance work on computer at home

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Workers in Asia-Pacific who have advanced digital skills potentially earn up to 65% more than those who do not use digital skills at work, according to a new report by workplace consultancy Gallup and Amazon Web Services.

That’s comparing workers with the same educational background and years of working experience.

Advanced digital skills refer to skills in complex areas such as software or application development, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Cloud architects and software developers are considered advanced digital workers.

Digitally skilled workers — those with advanced skills as well as those with basic or intermediate skills like email and word processing — add approximately $4.7 trillion to the region’s annual gross domestic product, according to the Asia Pacific 2023 Digital Skills report.

“Organizations in the APAC region that employ advanced digital workers — such as software developers or cloud architects — report 2021 annual revenues 150% higher than organizations that employ only basic digital workers, and 286% higher than those that employ intermediate digital workers,” the report said.

More than 30,000 employees and 9,000 employers across 19 countries participated in the survey. Respondents were from countries including Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

Higher salaries

The findings revealed the more highly skilled digital workers are, on average, drawing 58% higher wages than their peers who do not use digital skills at all.

Even workers who use basic digital skills such as emailing or word processing earn 39% more than those who do not use any digital skill at work.

This is more pronounced in Singapore and Indonesia, where employees who use any level of digital skills are earning 97% and 93% higher wages respectively, compared to their non-digital peers, according to the report.

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Gallup estimates that 72% of workers in Asia-Pacific do not use a computer at work, and as much as 83% of India’s workforce are non-digital. For the 28% who actually use a computer, only 8% use advanced digital skills while 14% use basic digital skills.

Close to half of digital workers surveyed said that a higher pay motivates them to seek out additional digital skills training. Advanced digital workers in Indonesia are twice as likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs as compared to basic digital workers.

On the other hand, job satisfaction of basic digital and advanced digital workers are nearly on par in high-income countries such as Australia and Japan.

A challenge to hire degree holders

The report further revealed that 70% of employers in Asia-Pacific find it challenging to hire digitally skilled workers.

This is partly because of strict bachelor’s degree requirements for those job openings.

While almost two-thirds, or 63%, of the most advanced digital workers possess digital certifications, they do not have a bachelor’s degree. This makes them ineligible to apply for the jobs, despite having the skills required.

Digital workers in Asia-Pacific are about twice as likely to hold digital certifications than degrees, said AWS and Gallup.

Many companies in the region are aware that they are narrowing the hiring pool due to the strict degree requirements, and are trying to adjust their hiring practices.

“This is an important development, as digital workers in the Asia Pacific region are about twice as likely to hold a digital certification (50%) as they are to hold a bachelor’s degree (27%),” the report said.

“By relaxing the degree requirements of their job openings, organizations that allow digital certifications or trainings to substitute or complement degrees may be more than doubling the pool of digital workers who are eligible to apply for these roles.”

Some 38% of companies in the region want to hire degree holders for entry-level tech roles, but only 27% of Asia’s digital workers have a bachelor’s degree.

The countries that found it most difficult to hire digital workers — namely Thailand, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia — are the most likely to require degrees for entry-level tech jobs.

Meanwhile, more advanced economies like Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan have looser degree requirements for tech workers despite having large proportions of university graduates in their workforces.

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