Work-Life Balance for the Youth

Youths in the ASEAN Region and Work-Life Balance

Youths, people below the age of 35, make up a large percentage of the ASEAN region’s population—approximately 65%. This segment of the population represents the future leaders of the ASEAN countries and possibly, the world. Many organizations have already begun recognizing the potential in youths, and youth development programmes, forums and trainings are often carried out in hopes of developing the youths. The voices of the youth will inevitably become more and more important in the policy-making arena as they go to the polls or become politicians themselves.

Photo courtesy of Youth Union.


“When the youths join the workforce, they will have a huge impact because of their ingrained knowledge of and familiarity with technology in a changing world.”

When the youths join the workforce, they will have a huge impact because of their ingrained knowledge of and familiarity with technology in a changing world. Many of today’s youths are digital natives, and even more of them have grown up alongside technology, from clunky computers to superfast smartphones. Technology is widely accepted as a necessary thing in development, and soon the workforce will be dominated by digital natives who appreciate technology and are able to use it better than any generation we’ve ever seen.

Youths are future leaders, and thus, their voices are important if we want to allow them to shape their future.


Challenges faced by youths in work and life balance

Unemployment in Urban Areas

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2010, the average rate of youth unemployment is 13.6 percent in Southeast Asia. This means that more than 22 million youths do not have any income or are not contributing to the GDP of the country. This number does not even include underemployment, youths working as part-timers or blue-collar workers. The high number of unemployed youths in Southeast Asia poses a serious threat to equitable economic development.


Lack of Opportunities for Skill Development in Rural Areas

With improved connectivity via the Internet and roads, many people in the rural areas are now exposed to the lifestyle of modern urbanites, and some are changing their lifestyles. In the past, most of them earn an income through farm-related activities. Now, more are turning to non-farm activities to support their income in order to sustain their living, whether it is paying for education, adopting a more modern lifestyle or purchasing technology to improve farm work. Of these who venture out of traditional economic activities, most are youths with big ambitions and wide exposure, but they may not necessarily have the skills to carry out what they want to. The lack of opportunities to develop the right skill set for their desired career dampens their ambition and deepens inequality in our economy.


Lack of Work that Suits Their Beliefs and Lifestyles

“the youths of today have different beliefs and values from the older generation, therefore their thought-process in decision-making is very different”

Numerous articles, papers and journals have expressed this before: the youths of today have different beliefs and values from the older generation, therefore their thought-process in decision-making is very different. To put it in another way, the things that they value differ greatly. Occupation is no longer seen as merely a means to support their life; in fact, an increasing number of urban educated youths are looking for jobs with personal meaning or value to them. An increasing number of youths are also expressing their concerns about climate change, governance and government policies. Not only are they gaining awareness about how they should live their lives, they are also taking actions to improve their living standard if they can. Many would select their jobs not just based on paycheck amount but also the satisfaction of doing something meaningful. However, many jobs that allow youths to contribute to solutions are in non-profit organizations or volunteering firms. Purely for-profit entities may not provide the right environment to achieve self-actualisation as more and more youths choose to spend time and resources understanding and tackling issues that plague human society.


Rural-urban migration

Rural flight or rural-urban migration is a phenomenon that has been occurring all over the world, mainly in countries and areas that undergo sudden socioeconomic development. According to the FAO, international migration only represents 1% or less of total migration in developing countries. Clearly, internal migration is the current migration trend in the southeast Asian countries. Many youths leave their homes with the notion that city life in the city will provide them with stableility of income and, a higher standards of living and a better life in general. However, with They don’t foresee the higher cost of living and or the tough competition for jobs. As such, many of them end up living day to day, surviving on meagre wages that are inconsistent (Find reference). This is a difficulty for youths who want to achieve work-life balance.

Sometimes, parents leave young children in the care of grandparents or relatives to pursue a career away from home and earn money to support the family. These children grow up spendingwith limited time with their parents, and after (be general) going through certain years of lower secondary schooling, they, too, leave the villages for the city to further their studies. An increasing number of young men also leave behind wives, young children and parents to work in cities, and they return only a few times a year due to work demands and the cost of transportation. This separation of the family has instigated family conflicts, divorce, abandonment and women-headed households with vulnerable family members.


Environmental Degradation

Pollution is one of the leading issues in youths’ lives as they and their next generation are the inheritors of this planet. A polluted environment leads to poor health, and poor health jeopardizes both ‘work’ and ‘life’. As such, it is crucial that pollution is addressed before it goes out of hand and is unable to be brought back under control.

Work-Life Balance for Youths

Work-life balance for youths is achieved when they have the ability to earn a living while at the same time having a positive long-term impact on their surrounding communities through sustainable actions, appropriate use of technology and representative policy-making.


Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ball, J., & Clark, T. (2013, March 11). Generation self: What do young people really care about? Retrieved November 5, 2015, from

Sugiyarto, G. (2014). Internal and International Migration in Southeast Asian. Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Economics.

Samual, A. G. (2010, July 12). Why young Sabahans prefer going to KL. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from

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