PETALING JAYA: South-East Asian youths have shown “extraordinary resilience and adaptability” to social and economic disruptions of Covid-19, with many taking the opportunity for personal growth, says a new regional study.
The 2020 Asean Youth Survey, by the World Economic Forum in partnership with Sea Insights – a research and public policy unit under Sea, a global consumer Internet company – found that while facing the challenges of Covid-19 and its consequent lockdowns, South-East Asian youth as a whole demonstrated personal strength and remarkable ability to adapt to the new normal.
These youth adopted new digital technology and learning new skills, thinking creatively and developing new business models.
The annual Asean Youth Survey analysed some 70,000 completed responses from across South-East Asia, with 11,591 of the responses from Malaysia alone.
It was conducted in June and focused on youth aged 16 to 35.
Some 87% of youth increased usage of at least one digital tool during the pandemic, while 42% picked up at least one new digital tool.
The study also found that Asean youth, especially women, looked at ways for self-improvement.
At least 72% of youth showed signs of resilience and adaptability, by either picking up new skills, thinking creatively, creating new sources of income, or learning to be more resilient and prepared for future pandemics.
While those aged 16 to 25 were more likely to learn new skills during the pandemic, older ones aged 26 to 35 were more likely to develop new business models and improve incomes.
But the pandemic also brought significant challenges, particularly in remote working.
Those who lack digital skills and access to affordable and quality Internet faced the most difficulty.
On a positive note, the study revealed that youth resilience and adaptability will have a lasting impact beyond Covid-19.
“More than 60% (of respondents) said they will permanently increase their usage of key digital tools such as social media, e-commerce, online education and e-banking.
“Even after the virus is brought under control, digital tools are likely to be an integral part of people’s lives and businesses, ” said Sea Insights, adding that digital economies can and should play an important role in supporting economic recovery.
The research unit also identified gaps in digital skills, access, and funding that must be tackled to foster inclusive and resilient economic growth in the post-Covid-19 world.
To achieve this, the report recommended strong collaboration between the public, private, and social sectors.