By Manish Gupta
If the once-in-century pandemic and automation created a “double-destruction scenario” for workers at the start of the current decade, the global shift in occupations will continue to be relentless in the next five years as well, with a declining trend in net job creation, according to a new report.
Nearly a quarter of global jobs will “change” in the next five years, with 69 million new jobs likely to be created and 83 million lost, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 said on Sunday.
While green transition and localisation of supply chains will lead job growth in the 2023-2027 period, the labour market churn caused by technology and increased digital access per se will be “a net positive in jobs gained”, the report said, relying on a survey of 803 companies.
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This indicates that, contrary to a widespread perception, the immediate job losses will be due to factors other than technology.
Implicit in this prediction is that macroeconomic developments, including the impending growth slump, will stifle job creation in the medium term, along with the less-than-required pace in improving skill sets to meet the employers’ needs. Ironically, while job growth is stunted and labour markets are mostly tight, employers also report labour shortage; analysts expect the deficit to remain for many more years.
The WEF report, therefore, highlighted an “increasing urgency for re-skilling revolution”, while estimating that 44% of an individual worker’s skills will need to be updated for sustained employability.
Among sectors, digital commerce will lead to the largest absolute gains in jobs, with around two million new digitally enabled roles expected. Absolute gains in jobs will be high in education and agriculture as well.
The job churn in India is seen to be largely in line with the global trend, with 22% job changes expected in the country by the employer-companies compared with global average of 23%.
Corporate India is sanguine about its ability to create or sustain jobs. According to the WEF report, 61% of Indian companies think broader applications of ESG standards will drive job growth, followed by increased adoption of new technologies (59%) and broadening digital access (55%).
Importantly, while the fastest-growing job segments are that of artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML) specialists, sustainability specialists, business intelligence analysts and information security specialists, the businesses surveyed called for giving the highest priority to addressing the skill deficit in analytical and creative thinking. While AI/ML is spreading wings, strong cognitive skills are being increasingly valued by employers.
In India, too, the top roles for industry transformation will be played by AI and ML specialists, besides data analysts and scientists.
“Macrotrends, including the green transition, ESG standards and localisation of supply chains, are the leading drivers of job growth, with economic challenges including high inflation, slower economic growth and supply shortages posing the greatest threat. Advancing technology adoption and increasing digitisation will cause significant labour market churn, with an overall net positive in job creation,” the report said.
Significantly, the potential employers reported that skills gaps and an inability to attract talent are the key barriers to transformation. Six in 10 workers will require training before 2027, but only half of employees are seen to have access to adequate training opportunities today.
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WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said: “The good news is that there is a clear way forward to ensure resilience. Governments and businesses must invest in supporting the shift to the jobs of the future through the education, re-skilling and social support structures that can ensure individuals are at the heart of the future of work.”
In its Future of Jobs report for 2020, when the pandemic was staring the world in its face, the WEF had said 43% of businesses surveyed indicated that they were set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, and predicted that, by 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines would be equal.