Future Shock?

Future Shock?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently launched its report on the future of global jobs. Here’s what you need to know.

Already having drastically changed how we look at supply chains and labour markets, the economic downturn induced by the COVID-19 pandemic (especially during its initial months) is set to have long-standing repercussions in the way business is conducted globally.  It is thus crucial to have a fair idea of exactly where global job markets are heading, and how the impacts of the same are set to change the landscape of global businesses.

The Double-Disruption

The pandemic-related disruptions of 2020 have completely transformed the expected outlook for jobs, skills and technology adoption over the next five years, with the pace of adoption of novel technologies set to remain unabated and even further accelerate in several areas. According to research, the adoption of e-commerce, big data and cloud computing shall continue to remain high on the priority list for business leaders, following a trend already established in the previous few years. In this regard, a significant rise in interest has also been noted in non-humanoid robots, encryption and Artificial Intelligence.

And this is where we enter the ‘double disruption’: in addition to disruptions caused by the lockdown and economic contraption, 43% of the surveyed businesses have suggested that technology adoption is set to reduce workforce requirements. The survey also suggests that about 41% plan to expand the use of consultants and contractors for task-specific requirements, while 34% are even looking to expand their workforce requirements. Either way, the job market is set to face a major disruption by 2025, with some estimates even claiming that the total share of productivity between human labour and technological labour will be roughly equal.

Although over the medium term we are expecting to see a rise in jobs created compared to job absorptions, currently, the rate of job destruction has risen considerably. By 2025 however, employers expect the number of redundant roles to decline by about 6.4% (from 15.4% to 9%), whilst emerging professions grow by 5.7% (from 7.8% to 13.5%). The WEF estimates about 85 million jobs will be displaced owing to the shift of labour from humans to machines, and the emergence of about 97 million new roles which are more adapted to the division of labour between humans, algorithms and machines.

Adapt to remain Relevant

With about 84% of employers set to rapidly digitise various work processes, we are set to see a significant expansion of remote work – almost 44% of the workforce of the future is expected to work remotely. Concerns regarding well-being and productivity are also being heeded, with about one-third of the total surveyed employers suggesting taking concrete steps to create a sense of community among the workforce through a digital means.

However, this mass movement towards remote work will most definitely reveal major skill gaps in several professions. Stress is set to be laid on “critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.” Companies estimate about 40% of workers to require a reskilling period of about six months or less, while almost 94% are optimistic regarding the fact that their employees will look to upskill while on the job.

In this regard, however, the window of opportunity that workers will get in order to reskill or upskill will be much shorter owing to the current constraints of the labour market. This is primarily applicable for those currently in roles who risk losing positions due to recession-led unemployment in the economy. Core skills are set to change by almost 50% in the next few years, and adaptability will be crucial to remaining relevant.

Online learning and training is thus seeing a major rise as people look to adapt to the rapid changes – but remains a very different exercise for those currently in positions compared to those who are not: “There has been a four-fold increase in the numbers of individuals seeking out opportunities for learning online through their own initiative, a five-fold increase in employer provision of online learning opportunities to their workers and a nine-fold enrolment increase for learners accessing online learning through government programmes. Those in employment are placing larger emphasis on personal development courses, which have seen 88% growth among that population. Those who are unemployed have placed greater emphasis on learning digital skills such as data analysis, computer science and information technology.”


Finally, here’s how Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, sums up the report:

“After years of growing income inequality, concerns about technology-driven displacement of jobs, and rising societal discord globally, the combined health and economic shocks of 2020 have put economies into freefall, disrupted labour markets and fully revealed the inadequacies of our social contracts. Millions of individuals globally have lost their livelihoods and millions more are at risk from the global recession, structural change to the economy and further automation. Additionally, the pandemic and the subsequent recession have impacted most those communities which were already at a disadvantage.

We find ourselves at a defining moment: the decisions and choices we make today will determine the course of entire generations’ lives and livelihoods. We have the tools at our disposal. The bounty of technological innovation which defines our current era can be leveraged to unleash human potential. We have the means to reskill and upskill individuals in unprecedented numbers, to deploy precision safety nets which protect displaced workers from destitution, and to create bespoke maps which orient displaced workers towards the jobs of tomorrow where they will be able to thrive.

However, the efforts to support those affected by the current crisis lag behind the speed of disruption. It is now urgent to enact a Global Reset towards a socio-economic system that is more fair, sustainable and equitable, one where social mobility is reinvigorated, social cohesion restored, and economic prosperity is compatible with a healthy planet. If this opportunity is missed, we will face lost generations of adults and youth who will be raised into growing inequality, discord and lost potential.”

This is indeed a document for the future, and worth a read!

Acknowledgement:All quotations from The Future of Jobs Report, 2020 (World Economic Forum).Access the full report at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf

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