The Future of Jobs:Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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Today, we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. The rise of the sharing economy will allow people to monetize everything from their empty house to their car.

While the impending change holds great promise, the patterns of consumption, production and employment created by it also pose major challenges requiring proactive adaptation by corporations, governments and individuals. Concurrent to the technological revolution are a set of broader socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic drivers of change, each interacting in multiple directions and intensifying one another. As entire industries adjust, most occupations are undergoing a fundamental transformation. While some jobs are threatened by redundancy and others grow rapidly, existing jobs are also going through a change in the skill sets required to do them. The debate on these transformations is often polarized between those who foresee limitless new opportunities and those that foresee massive dislocation of jobs. In fact, the reality is highly specific to the industry, region and occupation in question as well as the ability of various stakeholders to manage change. 

The Future of Jobs Report is a first step in becoming specific about the changes at hand. It taps into the knowledge of those who are best placed to observe the dynamics of workforces—Chief Human Resources and Strategy Officers—by asking them what the current shifts mean, specifically for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies. In particular, we have introduced a new measure—skills stability—to quantify the degree of skills disruption within an occupation, a job family or an entire industry. We have also been able to provide an outlook on the gender dynamics of the changes underway, a key element in understanding how the benefits and burdens of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be distributed. 

Overall, there is a modestly positive outlook for employment across most industries, with jobs growth expected in several sectors. However, it is also clear that this need for more talent in certain job categories is accompanied by high skills instability across all job categories. Combined together, net job growth and skills instability result in most businesses currently facing major recruitment challenges and talent shortages, a pattern already evident in the results and set to get worse over the next five years.

Preparing for the Workforce of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

INTRODUCTION

Disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years. Many of the major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps. In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.1 In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends—and to mitigate undesirable outcomes

Past waves of technological advancement and demographic change have led to increased prosperity, productivity and job creation. This does not mean, however, that these transitions were free of risk or difficulty. Anticipating and preparing for the current transition is therefore critical. As a core component of the World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge Initiative on Employment, Skills and Human Capital, the Future of Jobs project aims to bring specificity to the upcoming disruptions to the employment and skills landscape in industries and regions—and to stimulate deeper thinking about how business and governments can manage this change. The industry analysis presented in this Report will form the basis of dialogue with industry leaders to address industry-specific talent challenges, while the country and regional analysis presented in this Report will be integrated into national and regional public-private collaborations to promote employment and skills.

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