ASEAN youths inclined towards entrepreneurship, survey finds

Indonesian youths want to become entrepreneurs while Singapore’s prefer to work in multinational corporations.

ASEAN youths have a strong entrepreneurial drive and like the tech industry, the ASEAN Youth Technology, Skills and the Future of Work report found. It was jointly published by Singapore-based technology company Sea and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The report’s data was collected from 56,000 youths aged between 15 and 35, across six Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

According to the report, 31.4% of the youths surveyed are either entrepreneurs or working for a startup. 33.1% aspired to work in an entrepreneurial setting in the future.

In contrast, only 18.3% of the respondents were currently working for SMEs with only 7.5% wanting to work for one in the future. This is despite SMEs forming the bulk of the companies in each of the six Southeast Asian countries surveyed.

While only 7% of the young people work in the tech industry today, 16% said they want to do so in the future.

Bandung City, Indonesia. Photo from Unsplash.

Granted, there could be a degree of selection bias in the results. The surveys where distributed via the Garena and Shopee platforms, which means respondents have a higher likelihood of being tech-savvy than the general population.

However, a closer look at the survey results highlights some interesting differences across the region. Indonesian youths have the strongest inclination towards becoming an entrepreneur, with 34.1% already working as one at the moment and 35.5% wishing to do so in the future.

The report suggests the strong startup culture and having seen firsthand the formation of several tech unicorns, such as Gojek, Traveloka, Bukalapak, and Tokopedia as the main driver for the preference for entrepreneurship.

Indonesia’s internet economy is expected to grow to USD 100 million by 2025 and the number of startups is expected to grow by approximately 20-30% in the coming year.

In fact, data from the Emerging Market Private Equity Association (EMPA) shows that Indonesia captured 17.8% of the USD 731 million in venture capital investments available in Southeast Asia in the first three quarters of 2018.

Singapore. Photo from Shutterstock.

Ranked last is Singapore, with only 16.9% of the youths expressing interest in becoming an entrepreneur.

This is worrying given the rapid advancement in technology available in the island state. Singapore is known as the Silicon Valley of Southeast Asia given its ease of doing business, low tax rates, and convenient geographical position.

In spite of this, Singaporean youths surveyed were not as interested in starting their own businesses. Instead, youths in Singapore were more inclined towards working in a multinational company, according to the WEF survey’s 2018 findings. The 2019 report did not break down statistics for Singaporean youths wanting to work in large foreign companies.