Leading in the Asian Century: A National Scorecard of Australia’s Workforce Asia Capability

Asia Capability report cover

For Australian businesses, one of the biggest impediments to realising business and investment opportunities in the Asian region is a lack of understanding about Asia capabilities – in particular which capabilities are critical to business success and how prevalent they are in the workforce. In ground breaking research, DCA has generated the first ever National Scorecard of Australia’s Workforce Asia Capability.

‘Asia capability’ (A-Cap) is defined as individuals’ ability to interact effectively in Asian countries and cultures, and with people from Asian cultural backgrounds, to achieve work goals. The findings released in DCA’s report, Leading in the Asian Century: A National Scorecard of Australia’s Workforce Asia Capability, reveal there is significant scope to better cultivate workforce Asia capability in Australian organisations.

Key findings include:

  • There is a strong business case for fostering workforce A-Cap. Seven out of Australia’s top ten export markets are in Asia, and constitute 66% of our total export market. More than 50% of the world’s population lives in Asia and its consumer demand is worth US$10 trillion annually, similar to the U.S.
  • Asia capable talent is available. A-Cap is considerably higher in some groups – in particular the 16.7% of Australian workers who have an Asian cultural identity, the 15.9% who have lived and worked in Asia and the 20.9% who can read, write and/or speak an Asian language (at least basic proficiency level).
  • But a third of workers have low A-Cap. While one in ten (10.8%) of all Australian workers have excellent Asia capability, one third (34.7%) have none or very little. Close to two-thirds of workers have no or very little working knowledge of how to effectively manage in Asian business contexts. Overall, our workforce scores three out of five for Asia capability.
  • Senior executives & managers are more likely to have higher A-Cap. Australian senior executives and managers are more likely to have excellent Asia capability than non-managers (13.9% of managerial workers versus 10.3% of non-managerial workers).
  • Fluency in Asian languages is low. Only 5.1% of workers are fluent in one or more Asian languages (i.e. can comfortably discuss and write about highly complex issues with colleagues/clients in an Asian language).
  • Having business interests in Asia doesn’t guarantee A-Cap. Workers in organisations with Asian business interests are less likely to have excellent Asia capability (16.4%) compared with workers in an organisation with an Asian head office (29.8%).
  • There is too much talk and not enough action. While a fifth of workers said their organisations valued the A-Cap of their workforce (19.1% strongly agreed), fewer said their organisation was likely to effectively use these capabilities (12.6%).

Australian organisations can improve their Asia capability in the short term by focusing on existing Asian-identifying talent, as well as better recognising and rewarding workers who have lived and worked in Asia, and those who have Asian language proficiency. Based on our original research, DCA has developed recommendations specifically for Australian organisations to improve their workforce A-Cap.

Leading in the Asian Century: A National Scorecard of Australia’s Workforce Asia Capability is a partnership research initiative between Foundation Platinum Sponsor, Norton Rose Fulbright, Platinum Sponsor, Telstra, Supporting Sponsor, the CIMIC Group with assistance from Asialink Business.

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