Companies should be proactive in upgrading the quality of their workforce for the digital era while also not neglecting the other fundamental obligations an employer has in respect of its employees, regional experts from PwC told human resources (HR) professionals at an event in Ho Chi Minh City on September 10.

PwC’s new survey finds that the speed of change brought about by technology is pushing workers worldwide to adapt. The majority of workers (61 per cent) are positive about the impact of technology on their day-to-day work, and 77 per cent of people will learn new skills now or completely retrain to improve their future employability.

Yet the support they receive from employers is not up to par, PwC experts from Southeast Asia said at a roundtable discussion with HR leaders at Vietnam-based firms. Most businesses are failing to take the necessary actions to grow or add future-ready talent to their organization, for example by using data analytics to make workforce decisions or creating a compelling work experience for employees.

“Everywhere in the world, the future of the workforce will rely on highly-skilled workers,” said Ms. Nicole Wakefield, PwC’s South East Asia Management Consulting Leader. “The situation in Vietnam is no exception. Employees and employers should think less about jobs and roles and more about the bundle of skills that they have and need in our digital world. It is this bundle of critical skills that will be the most important asset when setting up for success.”

“Providing a culture of lifelong learning and upskilling and a growth mindset will be a priority for companies and their workforce. Learning will no longer be an activity that is only done once or twice a year in a formal classroom setting. Rather, it will become a regular part of people’s daily or weekly working journey as they continue to adapt and evolve.”

Spotlight on employment taxes

Upskilling and employee experience aside, employers should also pay due attention to the other core obligations they have towards their workforce.

The term “employment tax” takes centerstage here. An employment tax can be understood as any obligation that an employer has in respect of its employees. Not only does it encompass paying employees on time, it also includes fulfilling social security obligations and meeting regulatory requirements such as employment tax withholding, year-end reporting, and employee wellbeing, etc.

According to the Paying Taxes 2019 report from PwC and the World Bank Group, globally, tax authorities are collecting as much employment tax as corporate tax. The changing legislative landscape in Vietnam reflects this global trend.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, legislative and technological changes are also causing disruption. Other employment tax trends in the region include more aggressive and targeted tax audit activities using data analytics, focusing on payroll audits and employer obligations. Quicker access to information and collaboration between regulatory authorities are also on the rise.

“These trends and challenges warrant a greater focus on developing a comprehensive employment tax framework, focusing on acquiring the necessary tax expertise, tax engagement structure, and risk management,” said Ms. Brittany Chong, Global Mobility Services Leader at PwC Vietnam. “This framework should include an employment tax strategy that is aligned to the wider tax and business strategy.”

“Forward looking HR leaders are well advised to take a holistic view of all aspects of maintaining a productive workforce. Digital upskilling has been the buzzword recently and it should indeed be a focus. But that does not mean that companies can afford to neglect compliance obligations with regard to their employees.”