Even the most stubborn and traditional businesses are being forced to consider their digital options as COVID-19 continues to turn the global economy on its head. Companies in Japan and Singapore in particular are looking to beef up their digital talent as they move their operations online.

Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, Japan had been struggling with a distinct shortage of information technology professionals. This is in part due to low wages within the industry as well as a comparatively slow uptake on digital transformation. COVID-19 has forced businesses to work harder on the problem.

“More companies will face a shortage of experts in cutting-edge technologies after the pandemic,” said Yosuke Yasui, a senior economist at the Japan Research Institute. However, there is an upside to all this. That being the digital transformation triggered by the pandemic is driving the development of that much needed talent.

According to a report released by Japan’s economic ministry, in early 2018, approximately 90 percent of Japanese companies were faced with a shortage of IT professionals; talent that is desperately needed to foster a digital transformation. While the development of digital technologies continues, and the coronavirus alters the way corporations function, a tighter employment market has made the shortage of tech talent even more apparent.

“The hunt for people with tech skills is intensifying across the globe. We have to cultivate experts by ourselves, not just by poaching talented people from other companies,” said Koichi Tsuji, a regional managing partner at accounting specialist EY Japan. The company’s own auditing unit, EY ShinNihon, has its own plans to double the number of AI engineers and other digital professionals on its payroll to 800 by fiscal year 2022.

Other countries in Asia are also on the hunt for tech talent. Singapore’s OCBC Bank in June announced plans to hire more than 3,000 people. In a recent statement, the bank said: “The coronavirus crisis has accelerated digitalisation worldwide, and there has been a sharp increase in the number of OCBC customers accessing the various digital channels and solutions.” The company plans to hire more tech specialists, as well as help current employees improve their digital prowess to meet that higher customer demand.


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