Australian Embassy

Seizing the Opportunities of the Future of Work

Ambassador Gary Quinlan AO

Opening Remarks, Indonesia Development Forum 2019

22 July 2019
Jakarta Convention Centre


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Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, other ministers – so many - governors, mayors, regents and distinguished guests, so many of us united by our commitment to a strong Indonesian future.

Selamat pagi

This is the second time I have had the privilege of assisting at the opening of the Indonesia Development Forum.

Australia has supported the Forum since its inception three years ago through a program in our development partnership with Indonesia which we call our Knowledge Sector Initiative.

This seeks to promote effective public policy through better use of research, data, and analysis.

The Forum’s uniqueness is that it brings together policy makers with practitioners, experts, researchers, the private sector, civil society, and the wider public to address Indonesia’s most decisive development challenges.

And – importantly – to talk about these challenges in a way that encourages not just new thinking, but action.

Of course, we are talking about this year’s theme – inclusive future work - at an unprecedented time in human history when technology is changing the world – and indeed humanity’s own future - more quickly and more fundamentally than ever before.

Computer power doubles on average every 12-13 months.

Two days ago, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of when we first walked on the moon – one of the pivotal moments in human history.

Today, the phone that is in your pocket can compute about 120 million times faster than the primitive computer that helped guide their journey through space.

And this rate of change is accelerating.

It is impossible to say where we will be in 10 years’ time.

But we know for sure that new technology and innovations – robotics, artificial intelligence, big data - will have again transformed the way we work and do business.

In this demanding new world, all our governments are grappling to discern what policy settings will need to be in place.

President Widodo last week set out his own clear and ambitious agenda of change for the future Indonesia – an agenda which takes up the challenges you will be addressing at this forum.

Today, I would like to briefly touch on three areas of focus that will be important for Indonesia to seize the opportunities from the future of work – lifting productivity, education and skills training, and reducing inequality.

In many countries, productivity growth has slowed over the past decade and we know this remains a persistent challenge for Indonesia’s economy.

Around a quarter of Indonesians aged 15-24 are not in education, training or employment. Many high school graduates lack basic literacy skills.

Youth unemployment is four times that of the adult rate and a large share of the workforce is still informal, making them more vulnerable to exploitation and economic shocks.

Australia invests heavily in skills development, through industry-driven training, quality schooling and early childhood development to create opportunities in the labour market.

The focus of the Australian welfare system is on making sure people have the skills to re-enter the workforce – we encourage those who have left the workplace to return, and transition workers to retirement when they’re ready.

The ultimate aim is for a more prosperous society for everyone, and we pay attention to the distribution of growth across high and lower-income households.

In Indonesia, we know that women’s labour force participation is low –women’s participation in the labour market has hovered at the 50 per cent mark for the past 25 years.

The wage gap between men and women is also widening.

Global evidence tells us that higher female labour force participation is an economic multiplier and reduces poverty and inequality.

Australia’s experience addressing productivity issues can benefit Indonesia – our economic governance programs provide the technical assistance that supports Indonesia’s priority economic reforms, including in budgeting, trade and competition, tax and macroeconomics.

And the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement will, when ratified later this year, further open up economic opportunities by reducing non-tariff barriers and improving the business investment climate, which is an essential piece of the puzzle.

Education will, of course, determine the future of work for our people.

In order to make sure young people are ready for work, now and into the future, they need the right skills and attributes, as well as an ability to think critically and creatively.

Basic education is vital and providing Indonesian children with the ability to learn and acquire new knowledge, adapt and take advantage of change is critical for industry 4.0 jobs.

Those entering the workforce today need to be digitally literate and flexible in the way they adapt to emerging technologies and jobs – some of which may not yet exist.

Australia has a longstanding partnership with Indonesia in the education sector.

Australia supports Indonesia to build evidence about how best to manage education at the sub-regional level, improve learning, and support human capital development.

We are helping Indonesia by creating models, through pilots, that if replicated at the national level, could really lift educational outcomes in Indonesia.

More than 11,000 Indonesians have studied at Australian universities through Australian Government scholarship programs over the last 60 years – many of those are leaders within their areas of expertise.

Today, around 20,000 Indonesians per year pay their own way to study at Australian universities.

Under IA-CEPA, Australia’s world-class work training providers will be able to establish courses here in Indonesia working directly alongside Indonesian business and with Indonesian students to help bridge that skills gaps. We also hope to see Australian universities helping to fill the huge demand for tertiary education here in Indonesia before too long.

Australia and Indonesia have also agreed to a reciprocal skills exchange, allowing professionals from both countries to gain six months experience in other’s market.

Underpinning all of this of course is the need to ensure that economic growth is universal.

Inequality – of opportunity or of access – limits the full participation of every citizen and is a drag on development.

Indonesia has made great progress in reducing poverty in recent decades. Last year poverty fell below 10 per cent for the first time.  But millions of Indonesians are still vulnerable and are not sharing in the benefits of economic growth.

Above all, we need to invest in children from their very earliest years to help them maximise their productive potential for their entire life, making it possible for them to absorb new levels of learning as they grow and develop.

A particular problem for Indonesia is stunting, which could threaten otherwise positive economic trends.

More than 30 per cent of children under five in Indonesia are stunted.

Stunting has been shown to reduce people’s cognitive ability, contribute to poor education outcomes and prevent people from ever reaching their full potential.

Stunting levels are coming down.

And I would like to acknowledge the leadership of Vice President Kalla on the development of the National Strategy on Anti Stunting and his drive to unify government action at the central and local levels to ensure assistance is directed towards those areas that need it most.

As President Widodo stated clearly last week reductions in maternal and child mortality and stunting are intrinsic to continuing to build a more prosperous future.

Australia provides expertise to Indonesia that targets the many drivers of stunting, including clean water and sanitation and better health systems.

We are working with our Indonesian partners where we can to help ensure that Indonesian children have the best start in life and can grow up to be the competitive workers and thinkers that Indonesia’s future success will need.

Bapak bapak dan ibu ibu, I apologise for being so obvious in what I’ve said this morning.

Most of you are already thinking about and working on these issues and how they will impact not just the future of work but also the future of Indonesia.

In creating a successful Indonesia you will, of course, also create a much broader successful ecosystem in which my own country can also prosper. Your success allows us to succeed.

Over the next two days I am confident that your exchange of ideas will prompt new ways to address how we can maximise the potential of people, manage talent, improve connectivity and partner together, including with the private sector, to ride the tiger of unprecedented change.  A difficult ride for all of us, but the mission is possible.

Terima kasih.