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The Future of Jobs is Here. Like, Now.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just released its Future of Jobs report — and there’s lots of juicy stuff about those technological and sociological drivers poised to reshape the world’s employment scene between the covers.


Among the document’s most noteworthy revelations? That we’ve entered the age of the “fourth industrial revolution.” While it’s all good for participants in science, tech, engineering and math (including folks working in 3D printing, genetics and biotech, AI, machine learning and nanotech) it’s not so revolutionary for employees whose white-collar and clerical jobs are predicted to be on the serious decline, including women.

Because as much as the report — which surveyed senior execs and chief HR officers in 15 major developed and emerging economies about how jobs in their industries will have changed by 2020— celebrates technological innovation’s increasing part in worldwide employment, it also highlights worrying concern around job shrinkage in those industries predicted to be on the brink of large-scale freefall.

Report highlights include:

  • Swift economic upheaval will put an unprecedented stress on a transitioning labour force, and the result could be a net employment loss of more than 5.1 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020.
  • Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t even exist right now.
  • Two-thirds of the jobs anticipated to be lost due to these looming disruptive labour market changes are concentrated in the routine white-collar-office space.
  • The computer, mathematical, architectural and engineering-related fields are predicted to gain two million jobs by 2020.
  • Data analysts and specialized sales representatives will be much in demand.
  • By 2020, more than a third of the desired core skillsets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.
  • Business leaders are aware of these looming challenges, but have been slow to act decisively.
  • During previous industrial revolutions, it often took decades to build the training systems and labour market institutions required to develop major new skillsets on a large scale. The expected pace of this upcoming revolution eliminates this as an option.
  • There needs to be an immediate reinvention of the HR function, such that it enjoys a bigger strategic role in a corporation’s overall gameplay than ever.
  • Businesses and governments need to cultivate a new approach to workforce planning and talent management, central to which has to be better forecasting data and planning metrics.
  • The highly siloed training provided by most existing education systems is increasingly outdated.

In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the WEF report sums up, the ability for businesses, governments and individuals to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical. Otherwise, our ability to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends — and to mitigate undesirable outcomes — is unlikely.

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