The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 assesses the impact of macro trends, as well as technological change on jobs and skills over the next five years. “There is no doubt that the future of work will be disruptive”, the WEF states. “But it need not be dystopian.”
“Investment in the green transition, as well as increasing consumer awareness of sustainability issues will create new opportunities.”
First, the new opportunities as described by the WEF. “Investment in the green transition, as well as increasing consumer awareness of sustainability issues will create new opportunities. Roles from renewable energy engineers, solar energy installation and systems engineers to sustainability specialists and environmental protection professionals will be in high demand, translating to a growth of approximately one million jobs.”
Jobs growth in agriculture and education
Where the overall number will decrease, the largest absolute gains in jobs will come from education (3 million jobs) and agriculture (4 million jobs), the WEF sees. Driven in part by demographics and in part by applications of new technologies in these fields. “The new economic geography created by shifting supply chains and a greater focus on resilience over efficiency is also expected to create net job growth, with wins for economies in Asia and the Middle East especially.”
Slowing economic growth
The implementation of new technology is expected to cause disruption within the job market, with some companies experiencing a decrease in employment opportunities while others will see growth. However, the relationship between humans and machines is evolving and expanding to uncharted territories. Despite the previous notion of physical and manual labor being replaced by machines, there has been a shift towards automation of tasks that require reasoning, communication, and coordination, areas where humans hold a comparative advantage. This trend is expected to continue in the future.
“The biggest threat to jobs is still seen to come not from technology, but from slowing economic growth.”
“This is not surprising”, the WEF states. “Generative artificial intelligence is expected to be adopted by nearly 75% of surveyed companies and is second only to humanoid and industrial robots in terms of expectations of job losses, most likely to affect bank tellers, cashiers, clerks, secretaries and accounting. Yet, the biggest threat to jobs is still seen to come not from technology, but from slowing economic growth, the rising costs of inputs and weaker purchasing power among consumers.”
Wanted: creative thinkers
The flip-side: there are certain cognitive, self-efficacy and technology-based skills on the rise. Organisations are in dire need of creative thinkers, analytical thinkers and those familiar with technological literacy. Those that are curious and lifelong learners should also have no fear of losing out.
Reskilling on the rise
Onto one of the world’s most topical topics: reskilling. Almost half of an individual’s skills (44%) will need to change on average across all jobs, the WEF states. “The skills with the highest share of companies reporting growing demand include analytical and creative thinking, followed by technological literacy, curiosity and lifelong learning, resilience and flexibility, systems thinking and AI and big data. Skills with less demand include global citizenship, sensory processing abilities and manual dexterity, endurance and precision.”
Skills gaps continue to be an issue
According to the World Economic Forum, the current economic climate is causing frustration, fear, and despair among individuals due to the integration of new technologies and future uncertainties. “For many individuals, the concurrent shift in the wider economic environment, the integration of new technologies at work and the expectation of future uncertainty translates into frustration with current job prospects, fear about future ones and despair about growing economic disparity in the future.”
“Human capital will become the key impediment to navigating the new economic landscape.”
At the same time, companies are expressing concerns about the talent needed to thrive in this new context. 60% of companies are worried about skills gaps and 54% are concerned about their ability to attract talent. Finally, governments that have underinvested in education and lifelong learning systems will face challenges in navigating this new economic landscape. “Human capital will become the key impediment to navigating the new economic landscape”, the WEF concludes.