Can the West Meet Asia's Challenge?

The global recession took a major toll on the job market, creating what the head of the IMF called a “wasteland of unemployment.” Thirty million jobs have been lost, the majority in the West and 81 million young people are currently out of work.

In the booming East, China and India are growing strongly and many believe you must now look to that direction for growth and jobs.

“Today is all about emerging economies, that's where the growth is," Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the chairman & managing director of Indian drug company Biocon told "That's where the big drivers are for the big industries. This is a market that has been ignored but now is coming to great prominence. That's where the employment opportunities are for big companies.”

“You have to look eastwards. The companies have to start doing things in a very smart way where they can access these markets, where they can create new business models that allow them to participate in these markets. And they have to do things differently ...and you even have to create employment opportunities in a very different way.”

“In the US 10 percent of (the research and development) workforce in (the) pharmaceutical industry are of Indian origin, there similar amount coming from Chinese origin,” Mazumdar-Shaw said.

Others disagree that it is all about the East and believe the West will maintain its advantage via innovation, the rule of law and a big pool of talent.

“The West has the most developed capital formation process, from angel investing, to venture funds, to the markets – both public and now private – necessary to support growthand job creation,” BarrySilbert, the CEO of SecondMarket, said.

“While the East is an important partner for many Western businesses. From an employment and customer perspective, you can’t outsource innovation,” Silbert told

“The necessary capital, government support, legal protections, and pool of talent are not yet in place in these emerging economies to create the innovative, disruptive business that will shape the lives of people around the world.”

“At the end of the day, sustainable jobs are created in economies that support entrepreneurs through a combination of an educated, skilled workforce, access to capital and government support,” Silbert said.

It’s the Education System Stupid

How workforces are educated is crucial in the new, global economy where the job market can change so quickly. Some believe many educational systems are failing to keep up with industries' demands.

“The pace of business and the pace of learning in the university systems have always been a point of contention and mismatch. But this mismatch now is more dramatic than ever before” Jeffrey Joerres, the chairman & CEO of Manpower, told

“The entire education system has to be looked at," Joerres said.

"The first two years should concentrate on good problem solving education; then let students have to go and get a job and finish the degree in more of the in durative process over four years, making it more relevant to the company and the individual.”

“That would require everyone living under a very different system and that change alone would cause disruption, but most likely will also cause a better tendency towards lifelong learning, and better applicability of skills to a person’s ability.”

“The big solution to the problem is the way industry and education institutions have worked together, it needs to be more constructive and government needs to be in that as well," he said.

"Government has the chance to funnel training dollars and funding for the right areas. It needs to be more transparent and informative. Companies have big obligation in this. This is not the responsibility of one party.”

But one leading member of the education system in the United States said it is not as clear cut as Manpower believes.

“Training prepares people for the jobs of 2011; education prepares people for the jobs of 2021. Universities serve their societies and the world best when we educate creative and collaborative people who are ready to tackle the pressing issues of our time, whatever they may be”, said Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania.

“The playbook is changing in the global economy," Gutmann said.

"The most challenging problems of our time cannot be addressed by one profession or perspective. Economic upheaval, the obesity epidemic, climate change, pandemics, global terrorism and political polarization, all of these issues require creative minds, collaborative skills and multi-disciplinary approaches to tackle successfully.”

Is the West Up for The Fight?

Others believe the West is simply walking into a century of decline that will see Asia rise as a dominant economic force in the world.

“China is now spending billions of dollars mining in precious resources in Afghanistan for its industry. We are spending millions dollars trying to win unwinnable war and in the process unintentionally killing the civilians,” Arianna Huffington, co-founder & editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said.

“If don’t take steps to improve our education system, innovate , to stop the decline of our middle class, we have a huge increase in poverty among the middle class, then we would become a third world country, but we still have time to cause correct, it depends on the choices you make.”

“We have the system now that imposes huge debts onto people that want to go through college," Huffington said.

"The college debt of students is a staggering – 900 billion dollars at the moment.” “Instead of becoming a birth right it has become the burden,” she said.

“Closing the borders to skilled entrepreneurs doesn’t make any sense,” she said in an interview with

Philip Jennings, the General Secretary, UNI Global Union, said workers are going to have to get used to the new realities of working for longer, with less security as Asia challenges the global economic order.

“The notion of social insurance, welfare will have to change. Social institutions will have to adapt to much more volatile situations,” Jennings said.

"You need innovative ecosystem," he said. "People will have to get access to training throughout their working lives. The Nordics have become closest to creating this model in the West.”

“Workforces will have to be more flexible and people will have to be prepared,” he added.