Think Tank (4/2021)
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Policy Challenges Faced by Regional Countries due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Disruptive Technologies, and Divergent Demographics
13 Jul 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic could have lasting effects on many countries in the region by reinforcing nationalism, protectionism, and other trends that are already undermining globalisation. The most serious challenge posed by pandemic-induced acceleration towards a digital economy is the disruption to labour markets. This has been worsened by divergent demographic trends in the region. It is important that regional initiatives continue to emphasise the importance of trade liberalisation.

These were some of the key observations made by Dr Jayant Menon, Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, at a webinar on 13 July 2021 titled “Pandemic Fallout, Disruptive Technologies, and Divergent Demographics: Policy Challenges Facing Countries in the Indo Pacific”. The webinar was jointly organised by RSIS, Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) from Japan.

Dr Menon pointed out that the pandemic is far from over. While the solution lies with vaccinating as many people as possible, the progress on this front varies drastically among countries. This has led to various inequalities. As the world accelerates towards a digital economy partly due to the pandemic, many jobs may be lost in the short run because of this transition. Therefore, the longer-term solution is for countries to invest more in training and upgrading their labour force.

One of the discussants, Professor Shujiro Urata, Professor Emeritus at Waseda University, said that further international cooperation is important for global economic recovery, and initiatives such as COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, are key. There also needs to be stronger social safety nets, avoidance of protectionism, and greater labour mobility within a country across industries.

Another discussant, Dr Yose Rizal Damuri, Head of the Department of Economics at CSIS, pointed out that the financial impact from the pandemic will be felt in the coming years due to uneven economic recoveries across the world. He also said that more attention needs to be given to low-skilled workers since the focus in Mutual Recognition Arrangements tends to be on skilled professionals.

Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel:

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