In its The Future of Jobs 2020 report published at the end of October, the World Economic Forum has mapped the jobs and skills of the future.
The aim of The Future of Jobs is to shed light on the pandemic-related disruptions of 2020, contextualized within a longer history of economic cycles and the outlook for technology adoption, jobs and skills over the next five years.
The scenario for 2025: technology and jobs
The pace of digitalization and technology adoption is forecast to continue at a constant speed, though it will accelerate in some services sectors. Among the emerging priorities are the adoption of cloud computing, a greater awareness of the value of big data and e-commerce, which is finally being seen as a strategic asset. There will also be a growing interest towards investments in cybersecurity and encryption as well as non-humanoid robotics.
In such a scenario, a question immediately springs to mind: will the number of jobs lost as a consequence of the adoption of technology be offset by the number of new jobs created by new roles and skills?
According to the World Economic Forum, in contrast to recent years, the number of new jobs created will decrease to such a degree that by 2025, employers foresee that roles of the traditional type will decline from making up 15.4% of the workforce to 9% (-6.4%). Emerging professions will increase from 7.8% to 13.5% (+5.7%).
Based on these figures, the Forum estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs could be displaced as the division of labour shifts from humans to machines while “97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms”.
Jobs: transformation rather than destruction
So, it is all about transformation rather than destruction. The new skills will have an even greater role to play in this transformation – which is already a reality for most white-collar workers.
According to the Forum’s analysts, 84% of employers are likely to rapidly digitalise working processes, significantly increasing the amount of agile, smart and remote work. Potentially, 44% of the global workforce could be working remotely.
“To address concerns about productivity and well-being, about one-third of all employers expect to also take steps to create a sense of community, connection and belonging among employees through digital tools, and to tackle the well-being challenges posed by the shift to remote work.” But workers will need to have essential new skills.
The ability of global companies to capture the growth potential of adopting new technology “is hindered by a lack of skills”. Employers interviewed during the Future of Jobs survey said that on average “they provide access to reskilling and upskilling to 62% of their workforce, and that by 2025 they will expand that provision to a further 11%”. However, the Forum adds that “employee engagement into those courses is lagging, with only 42% of employees taking up employer-supported reskilling and upskilling opportunities.”
Paradoxically, skills shortages appear to be more acute in the emerging professions.
New skills vs. old gaps
Will the skills gaps continue to be acute, seeing as the skills required will change over the next five years? Is the trend moving towards those skills most associated with the humanities, skills of value on every area of the market? We need answers to these questions now, answers that can generate value over the mid and long-term.
The main skills that employers believe will be in greater demand from here to 2025 include groups such as critical thinking and analysis, as well as problem-solving and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
So called ‘cross-cutting’ skills will also be prominent - those most in demand will be in product marketing, digital marketing and human computer interaction.
On average, employers estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling of six months or less and 94% of leaders will expect their employees to acquire new skills on the job. A sharp increase compared to the 65% reported in 2018.
Looking beyond jobs for jobs: education and training
In addition to the all-important skills and the reskilling of those already in jobs, in the context of Covid-19 the Forum has recognized the need to immediately set up training and development programmes so that the next generations can develop the skills of the future. Self-management skills are one of the top focus areas.
The need to invest in new skills is closely linked to the fact that over the short and medium-term, a hybrid form of work and working remotely will be the norm. In such a scenario, there will need to be a focus on collaborative, quality skills such as mindfulness, meditation, gratitude and kindness.
For this reason, the analysts of The Future of Jobs 2020 conclude that employers will focus “more fully on informal as opposed to formal learning”. However, the expectation is that company learning programmes will manage “to blend different approaches—drawing on internal and external expertise, on new education technology tools and using both formal and informal methods of skills acquisition”. The goal is to immediately start acquiring those qualities, skills and abilities needed to draw a new route towards the jobs of the future.