Gen Y lack understanding of Asean Economic Community

New Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) study examines Gen Y attitudes and perceptions towards AEC in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam

Dr Raymond Madden

Dr Raymond Madden

With Gen Y estimated to form over half of Asean’s population of 650 million by 2030, the awareness, attitudes and participation levels of this group will be vital to the future growth and development of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

AIF’s new report, ‘Gen Y: Aspirations for the ASEAN Economic Community’, presents the findings of a survey of Gen Y professionals conducted in 2015 in three Asean member-states, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Although Gen Y professionals claim that they understand the intentions and aspirations of the AEC, the study reveals that their objective knowledge is lagging. Among the three countries surveyed, Malaysia recorded the highest level of objective awareness (42 per cent) followed by Indonesia (31 per cent) and Vietnam (29 per cent).

“With a fast-expanding and rising middle class and with the huge potential of a large workforce, the attitudes and commitment of young professionals to the AEC is important. Our research suggests that there is room for improvement in terms of awareness and understanding of the AEC among Gen Y professionals in ASEAN.

“In fact, our study highlighted a lack of people’s understanding of the AEC as one of the top perceived challenges to the successful implementation of the AEC,” said AIF chief executive officer Dr Raymond Madden.

Gen Y in Malaysia less enthusiastic about AEC than counterparts in Vietnam and Indonesia

AEC infographic

Overall young professionals’ sentiments and attitudes towards the AEC are generally positive and supportive.

Young professionals in Vietnam have the highest support for the AEC, followed closely by Indonesian professionals.

While Malaysian young professionals are more knowledgeable about the AEC and more exposed to the other Asean member-states than Vietnamese and Indonesian professionals, they are less enthusiastic and have lower aspirations for the AEC beyond 2015. They expect the benefits to be lower, view the potential impacts to be less and perceive a lower preparedness for the AEC.

The greatest perceived benefit of the AEC, among those surveyed, is making Asean a more compelling region to invest in. This benefit is expected to be delivered mainly as a result of the impact of greater entrepreneurship and more innovation in goods and services.

Reaching out to Gen Y

It is interesting to note that the extent to which Gen Y professionals think they know about the AEC is higher than their factual levels of knowledge and understanding. One of the most striking results highlighted in the new AIF report across all three countries is that traditional media still plays a significant role as a source of information about the AEC compared to social media.

This shows a potential mismatch between the large pools of young target audience versus the communication channels, which in turn may partly explain the current low awareness level.

“Low public awareness and understanding of Asean and the AEC have been highlighted as potential challenges to the successful implementation of the AEC. Efforts to promote public awareness through the right channels, especially among Gen Y professionals, are therefore critical.

“We hope that this report can provide useful insights for policy-makers in terms of awareness and understanding of the AEC among young professionals in the region, especially in the absence of previous in-depth studies on this important demographic group,” added Madden.

“This is an important and insightful study that addresses key challenges that ASEAN nations face in being able to reap the benefits of the AEC. Further, the report provides insights into the thoughts and attitudes of Generation Y workers,” commented Dustin Ball, CEO of BIDV Metlife, Vietnam.

For more information about AIF, visit

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