A survey conducted by advisory multinational PwC of 32 517 workers in 19 countries, including South Africa, shows that 40% of workers improved their digital skills during pandemic lockdowns and 77% are ready to learn new skills or completely re-train.
However, 46% of people with post-graduate degrees say their employer gives them many opportunities to improve their digital skills in contrast to 28% of people with school-leaver qualifications reporting the same. Only 25% of people in the retail industry report opportunities to improve digital skills, while only 20% of respondents in the transport industry report this. These industries are at risk of disruption.
"However, this is not a counsel of despair. 74% of workers who responded see training as a matter of personal responsibility and 80% are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace, with a large majority of those asked in India (69%) and in South Africa (66%) saying they are very confident they can adapt," PwC says in a March 16 statement.
"If current patterns in access to training persist, upskilling will increase social inequality when it should be doing precisely the opposite," warns PwC People and Organization Practice joint global leader Bhushan Sethi.
"Government and business leaders need to work together to intensify efforts to ensure people in the most at-risk industries and groups get the opportunities they need. Automation and technological disruption are inevitable, but we can control whether its negative effects are managed or not."
IMPACT VERSUS INCOME
Three-quarters of workers globally say they want to work for an organisation that will make a positive contribution to society. This feeling was especially acute in China (87%), India (90%) and South Africa (90%).
However, economic insecurity is limiting people's ability to pursue purpose-driven careers, with younger people particularly affected. Overall, 54% of those polled said, if forced to choose, they would prioritise a job that enabled them to take every opportunity to maximise their income over a job that makes a difference (46%).
Further, those between 18 and 34 years old are more likely than other generations to prioritise income over purpose in their job, with 57% prioritising maximising their income over making a difference (43%), a margin of 14 points. Those over 55 prioritise making a difference by a margin of eight points, which rises to 22 points among workers over 65.
"While the world continues to grapple with a global health crisis and economic uncertainty, workers are demanding more from the business community and expecting their employers to make a positive contribution to society. Fortunately, focusing on societal impact and maximising profit are not mutually exclusive, and being a purpose-led business can actually help boost your bottom line," says PwC People and Organization Practice joint global leader Peter Brown.
Additionally, the survey concludes that remote working will persist post-lockdown. Of those who can work remotely, 72% say they prefer a mixture of in-person and remote working, with only 9% stating they would like to go back to their traditional work environment full-time. This is particularly true of professionals, office workers, business owners and the self-employed who can perform their jobs remotely using technology.
However, home working need not be limited to professional jobs. Forty-three per cent of manual workers and 45% of semi-skilled workers say there are many elements of their job that they are able to do remotely.
"People's attitudes to working from home also change by location, providing further evidence of how the pandemic has increased the global digital divide. Workers in metropolitan areas (66%) are more likely to work in roles that could allow remote working than those who live in rural areas (44%)," PwC says.