A 2020 Recession? What Will The Future Of Work Look Like?


The Future of Jobs Report 2020 reveals how the pandemic has caused the labour market to change faster than expected.

The workforce is automating faster than expected, according to The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the research sheds light on how pandemic-related disruptions have accelerated the arrival of the future of work.

The report indicates that the number of jobs gone will be exceeded by the amount of future jobs created; however, in contrast to previous years, job creation is slowing while job destruction fastens.

“COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work,” says WEF Managing Director Saadia Zahidi.

She adds that accelerating automation and the fallout from the COVID-19 recession has deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed employment improvements gained after the global financial crisis.

“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,” Saadia confirms.

“Businesses, governments and workers must plan to urgently work together to implement a new vision for the global workforce.”

By 2025, automation and a new division of labour between people and machines will impact 85 million jobs worldwide in medium and large businesses across 15 areas and 26 economies, the research suggests.

Roles in sectors such as data entry, accounting and administrative support are decreasing as automation and digitisation in the workplace increases.

More than 80% of executives are hastening strategies to digitise processes and deploy new technologies. At the same time, 50% of employers are expecting to quicken the automation of several roles in their organisations.

“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.” – Saadia Zahidi

Additionally, some 43% of businesses surveyed indicate that they will reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialised work and 34% are aiming to expand their workforce due to technology integration.

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By the time 2025 rolls around, there will be an equal division of work between people and machines. Positions that leverage social skills will rise, while machines will primarily focus on information and data processing, administrative tasks and routine manual jobs.


What will the future of work look like?

Reskilling revolution

  • 97 million new roles will emerge across the care economy and in new industries such as artificial intelligence and content creation.
  • A rise in demand for workers able to fill green economy jobs, roles at the forefront of the data and artificial intelligence economy, and new positions in engineering, cloud computing and product development.
  • Nearly 50% of employees who remain in their positions in the next five years will need reskilling.

“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,” says Saadia.


An inclusive future

  • Inequality is likely to be exacerbated by the impact of technology and the pandemic recession.
  • Between February and May 2020, data showed that displaced workers were, on average, mostly female, younger and had a lower wage.
  • Only 21% of businesses worldwide can make use of public funds for reskilling and upskilling programs.
  • The public sector will need a three-tiered approach to help workers: stronger safety nets for displaced workers; improving the education and training systems; and creating incentives for investments in markets and the future jobs.

“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted millions of low-skilled workers,” says Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, a 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.”


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Remote working to stay

  • Some 84% of employers will digitalise working processes, including an expansion of remote working.
  • Employers confirm the potential of moving 44% of their workforce to operate remotely.
  • 78% of business leaders expect some negative impact on worker productivity due to remote working.
  • The report suggests that some industries and companies are struggling to adapt quickly enough to remote working.


Rise of career pivots

  • Research indicates that a growing number of people are making career changes to entirely new occupations.
  • According to LinkedIn data gathered over the past five years, around 50% of career shifts into data and artificial intelligence are from different fields.

“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,” says LinkedIn’s Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough.

“Our research reveals the majority of transitions into jobs of tomorrow come from non-emerging jobs, proving that many of these jobs are more accessible than workers might think.

“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.”


Critical skills

  • According to The Future of Jobs Survey, skills such as critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving are 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.
  • There has been a fourfold increase in people seeking opportunities for online learning, a fivefold increase in employers offering workers online learning opportunities, and a ninefold enrolment increase in people accessing online learning through government programs.
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“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,” says FutureFit AI CEO Hamoon Ekhtiari.

“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 marginalised.”

This feature originally appeared in The CEO Magazine.

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