The World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) 'Future of Jobs 2020' report finds that Covid-19 has caused the labour market to change faster than expected.
The report envisions that, by 2025, automation and a new division of labour between humans and machines will disrupt or displace 85-million jobs globally in medium- and large-sized businesses across 15 industries and 26 economies.
As automation and digitisation in the workplace increases, the number of those involved with data entry, accounting and administrative support decreases.
However, the robot revolution will also create 97-million new jobs, but communities most at risk from disruption will need support from businesses and governments.
These new jobs require analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility, with data and artificial intelligence, content creation and cloud computing at the top of emerging professions.
The WEF explains that more than 80% of business executives are already accelerating plans to digitise work processes and deploy new technologies, while 50% of employers are expecting to accelerate the automation of some roles in their companies.
WEF MD Saadia Zahidi states the Covid-19 has caused the “future of work” to arrive earlier than previously expected.
“Accelerating automation and the fallout from the Covid-19 recession have deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007/8.
“It is 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. Businesses, governments and workers must plan to urgently work together to implement a new vision for the global workforce.”
About 43% of businesses surveyed in the Future of Jobs survey indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce owing to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialised work and 34% plan to expand their workforce owing to technology integration.
By 2025, employers will divide work between humans and machines equally. Roles that leverage human skills will rise in demand.
Machines will be primarily focused on information and data processing, administrative tasks and routine manual jobs for white- and blue-collar positions.
Despite the current economic downturn, most employers recognise the value of reskilling their workforce.
An average 66% of employers surveyed expect to see a return on investment in upskilling and reskilling current employees within one year.
They also expect to successfully redeploy 46% of workers within their own organisation.
“In the future, we will see the most competitive businesses being the ones that have invested heavily in their human capital – the skills and competencies of their employees,” Zahidi says.
About 84% of employers are set to rapidly digitalise working processes, including a significant expansion of remote working. Employers say there is the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely.
According to the report, 78% of business leaders expect some negative impact on worker productivity. This suggests that some industries and companies are struggling to adapt quickly enough to the shift to remote working caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
To address concerns about productivity and wellbeing, about one-third of all employers said they will take steps to create a sense of community, connection and belonging among their employees.
Further, those switching into cloud computing and engineering could make headway in the new skillset through a four- to five-month learning programme.
"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.
“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,” says FutureFit Artificial Intelligence CEO Hamoon Ekhtiari, who contributed to the insights in the report.
The Future of Jobs report maps the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change. It aims to shed light on the pandemic-related disruptions in 2020, contextualised within a longer history of economic cycles and the expected outlook for technology adoption, jobs and skills in the next five years.
The report is based on the projections of senior business leaders – typically chief human resource officers and chief strategy officers – representing nearly 300 global companies, which collectively employ eight-million workers.