5 Trends that Define the Future of Work in Asia


By 2040, Asia is expected to contribute to 50 percent of the world’s GDP and drive at least 40 percent of the consumption. For those looking to grow in tandem with the region, here’s what to expect from the future of work.

Asia’s exponential growth in recent years and impressive post-pandemic rebound speed has made the region a promising territory for businesses and individuals alike. But what will it take to succeed in this incredibly diverse region?

Cedomir Nestorovic, Professor of International Marketing and Geopolitics and Academic Director of ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Asia-Pacific talks about the future of work in Asia and how an Executive MBA (EMBA) can prepare you for your journey to the East.

#1 The Transformation from Copiers to Innovators

From the rise of companies like Alibaba, to the South Korean television show Squid Game that took the world by storm in 2021—one thing is clear: Asia is fast shedding its reputation as a manufacturing ground for western ideas, and taking an active role as a creator.

“I believe Asia will start to lead the world across many domains, and instead of following other countries, and that Japan and China will come up with new solutions and innovation for the world to follow,” Nestorovic shares. This, coupled with the potential of the entertainment industry in South Korea, offers businesses and individuals an abundance of growth opportunities as Asia’s soft power becomes a true force to be reckoned with.

#2 A Changing Employee Mindset

However, managers in the region will have to deal with how COVID-19 has changed the mentality of employees, Nestorovic muses.

"The pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainty about the future, which has scared people," he continues. While some want to "bulletproof" themselves by acquiring a wide range of skills and certifications to ensure their adaptability, others may see the job as a short-term commitment that lasts only six months to a year.

"That means the turnover rate will be much higher than in the past and it will be harder to retain talent," Nestorovic says.

#3 A Greater Emphasis on Mental Health

He adds that to help with staff retention, it is important for leaders to take stock of their employee’s mental health.

“Too often, we are putting mental health aside as we prioritize the battle against COVID-19,” he says, reiterating that this should not be the case. “A good leader must be observant about the problems employees face, and look out for their mental health more than just career progression, otherwise they may burnout and resign.”

#4 The Need for Blended Competencies

Arguably, to come to Asia is to enter a world of the most digitally savvy consumers there is. After all, it is this technological prowess which catapulted the region to its post-pandemic recovery and will continue to power its growth in the future.

Robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the cloud, and more are all integral to the future of work in Asia, yet, Nestorovic cautions that it would be a misconception to assume that this means demand will largely be for roles like engineers and data scientists and the like. Rather, demand will be high for those with blended competencies—people capable of integrating digital knowledge within the realms of marketing, human resources, design, and more.

#5 Increasing Diversity and Gender Parity

Asia may be lagging behind the Nordic countries in terms of gender equality now, but not for long.

“The ‘masculine’ way of doing business is different from the ‘feminine’ way and companies are increasingly realizing that having a more feminine approach can be beneficial,” Nestorovic shares.

This, coupled with how gender equality is one of the UN’s sustainable development goals, and how urban development is allowing once isolated communities to become more connected to cities, is pushing companies across Asia to embrace diversity and increase female representation, he says.

Unlock Asia With the Power of an EMBA

So how can an EMBA support you in your journey through Asia?

Through its comprehensive curriculum covering everything from geopolitics to business fundamentals necessary for one to understand the Asian context. By curating cohorts that are diverse—not just in terms of nationality and sectors, but also that offer a balanced mix of genders. And finally, by creating environments that are immersive, experiential, and carefully designed to bring out your potential as a leader, you may step into Asia with the mindset and tools to thrive.

Interested in the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Asia-Pacific program? 

Find out more HERE or email us at 

Help Me Choose a program