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Corporate Talent & Inclusion

From ‘quiet quitting’ to ‘lying flat’, compliance risks posed by global skills shortage

Helen Chan  Regulatory Intelligence Expert

· 5 minute read

Helen Chan  Regulatory Intelligence Expert

· 5 minute read

How can organizations ensure that their risk & compliance efforts don't falter amid a realignment of employment and a shortage of skilled professionals in Asia and elsewhere?

Recent research on employment trends is sounding alarm bells over the potential impact of global skills shortages on growth prospects and even business continuity. While the inability to recruit and retain employees with specialist skills is already widely recognized, skills shortages could be especially destabilizing for businesses across the Asia-Pacific region.

These recruitment and retention headaches risk triggering broader operational resilience concerns and require employers to adapt to changing work culture and expectations.

Asia skills shortage “particularly acute” post-pandemic

Consultancy firm PwC has described the skills shortage across Asia as “particularly acute” based on findings from a recent survey in which 18,000 employees based in the Asia-Pacific region participated. Similarly, findings from a report released by Poly Research in March found that 60% of organizations surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region believed that they faced the risk of losing staff and being unable to attract new talent, compared with 53% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and 53% in the Americas.

Skills shortages in the region have further brought into focus how recruitment and retention risks could impede the ability of businesses to expand. Data center operators in the Asia-Pacific region will face challenges in expanding capacity to meet demand over the next few years, due to skills shortages, according to research conducted by automation company ABB and Data Center Dynamics.

More than 40% of respondents said data center construction in the region has not been able to keep up with demand during the pandemic. The unavailability of specialist skills was named as a major contributing factor, along with access to specialist sub-contractors and trades.

“Quiet quitting” and “lying flat” receive attention

Following the Great Resignation during the latter part of the pandemic, labor and skills shortages have emerged. A survey of 52,000 workers in 44 countries conducted by PwC found that 20% of workers plan to quit their jobs before the end of this year, suggesting that talent retention will continue to be a concern for employers.

Many countries are also grappling with regional attitudes towards job dissatisfaction. Across Europe, Canada, and the United States, a phenomenon known as “quiet quitting”, in which employees intentionally do the bare minimum to complete their job duties, is prompting companies to look for mitigating options.

A survey of 15,000 workers conducted by U.S. workplace researcher Gallup in June found that more than half of the respondents described themselves as “not engaged” and could be considered quiet quitters. Further, 18% of respondents described themselves as “actively disengaged,” the highest percentage since 2013.

In fact, workers in Europe ranked at the bottom for workplace engagement, compared with their peers around the world. Gallup found that only 14% of workers in Europe said they were engaged at work, compared to 33% in the United States and Canada, 24% in Southeast Asia, and 17% in East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

In China, a budding movement of “lying flat” and rejecting high-pressure work culture in favor of a minimalist anti-consumption lifestyle has gained momentum over the past two years. Initially spawned from backlash against high-stress overtime work that is a hallmark of corporate culture at Chinese companies in the digital economy, lying flat has spread beyond the tech industry and could have longer-term impacts on economic growth in China.


As today’s skills shortage poses recruitment and retention challenges that could result in wider business continuity risks for organizations, corporations must endeavor to understand how regional attitudes towards work are evolving in order to adapt and mitigate their risk exposure.

In western markets, discussion over quiet quitting is prompting some employers to review job responsibilities for employees, with a view toward expecting only what is formally outlined. This shift in expectations is likely to have a wider effect on corporate cultures, with businesses moving towards more transparent and prescriptive methods of performance evaluation.

In China, regulatory reform and pressure from authorities have prompted many technology companies to cut back on overtime and be more mindful of their compliance with Chinese labor laws.

Businesses around the world are becoming increasingly aware that upskilling their workforce is their best option to mitigate retention risk and shore up skilled labor. Equally important — yet less emphasized during the tail-end of the pandemic — is the need to factor employee well-being into talent retention planning. Overlooking employee job satisfaction potentially risks losing valuable resources spent on upskilling key employees to competitors.

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