Chapter 8 - The APS in the Asian century

In the last 20 years, Asia1 has undergone a rapid transformation that has seen one-third of the world's population re-engage in the global economy and lifted the living standards of billions of people in the region in which Australia is located.2 Asia's development has been extraordinary. The region is set to be the world's largest economic zone, biggest consumer zone and home to the majority of the world's middle class. More than 2.5 billion people in the Asia-Pacific are expected to join the ranks of the middle class by 20303, driving new demand for health and education, expanding markets for consumer goods and services, and seeking new opportunities for skilled work. By 2025, four of the world's biggest economies—China, India, Japan and Indonesia—will be in the Asian region.4

Since 2004, Australia has had more trade with Asia than the rest of the world combined5 and has strong bilateral and multilateral engagements throughout the region. As the nation's engagement with Asia grows, the Australian Public Service (APS) will need to be well positioned with its culture, structures, systems, processes, knowledge and skills to support the government's objectives in the region. An Asia-capable APS providing insightful advice to government and delivering effective services to citizens is an important part of that agenda.

This chapter examines the APS preparations for the Asian century and provides a baseline from which to monitor progress. It examines how Australia's diverse society has provided a home-grown source of Asia capability for the APS over time, along with the impact of the Asian century on APS agencies and the approaches adopted by agencies to lift their Asia capability. It also outlines the Asia capability of current employees, who bring a diverse mix of Asia-relevant language skills, qualifications and in-country experiences to the APS.


Footnotes

1 For this chapter, ‘Asia’ is defined using the definition cited in Australia in the Asian Century White Paper—the group of nations that stretch from India through Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia, including Indonesia, other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members, China and Japan.

2 Australian Government, Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2012), p. 30.

3 H Kharas and G Gertz (2010), in Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2012), p. 63.

4 Australian Government, Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2012), p. 52.

5 Asialink, Developing an Asia Capable Workforce: A National Strategy, University of Melbourne, (2012), p. 7.