Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has found that COVID-19 has caused the labour market to change faster than expected, and that by 2025, automation and a new division of labour between humans and machines will disrupt 85 million jobs globally spanning 15 industry sectors and 26 economies.
The Future of Jobs 2020 report also found that roles in areas such as data entry, accounting and administrative support are decreasing in demand as automation and digitization in the workplace increases.
“More than 80% of business executives are accelerating plans to digitize work processes and deploy new technologies; and 50% of employers are expecting to accelerate the automation of some roles in their companies.”
Job creation slowing, job destruction accelerating.
“COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work,” said Saadia Zahidi, Manging Director at the WEF.
“It’s a double disruption scenario that presents another hurdle for workers in this difficult time. The window of opportunity for proactive management of this change is closing fast. Businesses, governments and workers must plan to urgently work together to implement a new vision for the global workforce.”
Some 43% of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialized work, and 34% plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration.
By 2025, employers will divide work between human and machines equally, and roles that leverage human skills will rise in demand, the report sated, adding that machines will be primarily focused on information and data processing, administrative tasks and routine manual jobs for white- and blue-collar positions.
The ‘reskilling revolution’
As the global economy and job markets evolve, 97 million new roles will emerge across the care economy, in fourth industrial revolution technology industries like artificial intelligence, and in content creation fields.
The tasks where humans are set to retain their comparative advantage include managing, advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating and interacting.
“There will be a surge in demand for workers who can fill green economy jobs, roles at the forefront of the data and artificial intelligence economy, as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing and product development.”
A key finding, the WEF said, is that for those workers set to remain in their roles in the next five years, nearly 50% will need reskilling for their core skills.
“In the future, we will see the most competitive businesses are the ones that have invested heavily in their human capital – the skills and competencies of their employees.”
Building a more inclusive future of work
The individuals and communities most negatively affected by the unprecedented changes brought about by COVID-19 are likely to be those that are already most disadvantaged, says the WEF.
“In the absence of proactive efforts, inequality is likely to be exacerbated by the dual impact of technology and the pandemic recession.”
“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted millions of low-skilled workers,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Chief Executive Officer of Coursera, a WEF report partner.
“The recovery must include a coordinated reskilling effort by institutions to provide accessible and job-relevant learning that individuals can take from anywhere in order to return to the workforce.”
Currently, the research found, only 21% of businesses worldwide are able to make use of public funds for reskilling and upskilling programmes.
The public sector will need a three-tiered approach to help workers, the study recommended.
This includes providing stronger safety nets for displaced workers, improving the education and training systems and creating incentives for investments in markets and the jobs of tomorrow.
Career pivots become the “new normal”
The Future of Jobs 2020 report also indicated that a growing number of people are making career changes to entirely new occupations.
According to LinkedIn data gathered over the past five years, some 50% of career shifts into data and artificial intelligence are from different fields.
That figure is much higher for sales roles (75%), content creation and production positions, such as social media managers and content writers (72%), and engineering roles (67%).
“As we think about ways to upskill or transition large populations of the workforce who are out of work as a result of COVID-19 into new, more future-proofed jobs, these new insights into career transitions and the skills required to make them have huge potential for leaders in the public and the private sector alike.”
Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist at LinkedIn
Kimbrough continued. “If we can help individuals, and the leaders who are directing workforce funding and investment, identify the small clusters of skills that would have an outsized impact on opening up more sustainable career paths, we can make a real difference in addressing the unprecedented levels of unemployment that we’re seeing globally.”
Reskilling and upskilling
According to The Future of Jobs Survey, core skills such as critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving are consistently top of the reskilling and upskilling priorities for educators and businesses. Newly emerging in 2020 are skills in self-management such as resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
Data from online course platform Coursera suggests that individuals could start gaining the top 10 skills for each emerging profession in people and culture, content writing, sales and marketing in one to two months.
Those wishing to expand their skills in product development and data and artificial intelligence could do so in two to three months, and those switching into cloud computing and engineering could make headway in the new skillset through a four to five-month learning programme.
There has been a fourfold increase in the number of people seeking opportunities for online learning under their own initiative; a fivefold increase in employers offering their workers online learning opportunities; and a ninefold enrolment increase in people accessing online learning through government programmes.
“Those in employment are placing larger emphasis on personal development courses; those unemployed have placed greater emphasis on learning digital skills such as data analysis, computer science and information technology.”
“The pandemic has accelerated many of the trends around the future of work, dramatically shrinking the window of opportunity to reskill and transition workers into future-fit jobs,” said Hamoon Ekhtiari, CEO of FutureFit AI.
“No matter what prediction you believe about jobs and skills, what is bound to be true is heightened intensity and higher frequency of career transitions especially for those already most vulnerable and marginalized.”
The Future of Jobs
The Future of Jobs report maps the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change and is based on the projections of senior business leaders (typically Chief Human Resource Officers and Chief Strategy Officers) representing nearly 300 global companies, which collectively employ 8 million workers.
The report features data from LinkedIn, Coursera, ADP and FutureFit.AI, which have provided innovative new metrics to shed light on one of the most important challenges of our time.