WEF urges reskilling, as job losses are set to outpace growth in the short term

2nd May 2023 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Deputy Editor Online

WEF urges reskilling, as job losses are set to outpace growth in the short term

The World Economic Forum’s latest ‘Future of Jobs’ report states that 23% of all jobs globally will change by 2027, through growth of 10.2% and a decline of 12.3%, in the next five years.

According to the WEF’s survey of 803 companies, employers anticipate 69-million new jobs to be created and 83-million jobs to be eliminated – among the 673-million jobs corresponding to the dataset – and therefore the labour sector will see a net decrease of 14-million jobs, or 2% of current employment.

The ‘Future of Jobs 2023’ report suggests that the green transition and localisation of supply chains will likely lead to net job growth.

In turn, the adoption of technology and increased digital access will also create net job growth, but with greater offsets from losses, slower economic growth, supply shortages and inflation.  

The WEF explains that macrotrends such as the green transition; environment, social and governance standards; and the localisation of supply chains, are the leading drivers of job growth, with economic challenges, such as high inflation, slower economic growth and supply shortages, posing the greatest threat. 

The ‘Future of Jobs’ report anticipates the fastest-growing jobs will be in the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning space, including technology specialists, sustainability specialists, business intelligence analysts and information security specialists.

Other fast-growing jobs will be fintech engineers, data analysts, robotics engineers, Big Data specialists, agricultural equipment operators and digital transformation specialists.

The largest absolute jobs growth is expected in education, agriculture and digital commerce.

Accordingly, the top ten skills at the moment – considered to be of greatest importance by respondents to the survey – are analytical thinking, creative thinking, resilience, flexibility and agility, motivation and self-awareness, curiosity and lifelong learning, technological literacy, dependability and attention to detail, empathy and active listening, leadership and social influence and quality control.

The WEF states that skills gaps and talent attraction are key barriers to transformation, showing a clear need for training and reskilling across industries. Six in ten workers will require training before 2027, but only half of employees are seen to have access to adequate training opportunities today.

The report suggests that faster reskilling is necessary, and possible, provided the public and private sectors collaborate to provide the necessary reskilling pathways at scale that displaced workers need to transition into jobs of the future. 

Advancing technology adoption and increasing digitisation will cause significant labour market churn, with an overall net positive in job creation, the WEF states.

“For people around the world, the past three years have been filled with upheaval and uncertainty for their lives and livelihoods, with Covid-19, geopolitical and economic shifts, and the rapid advancement of AI and other technologies now [being] risks [that add] more uncertainty,” WEF MD Saadia Zahidi says.

The good news, she adds, 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, reskilling and social support structures that can ensure individuals are at the heart of the future of work.”


The WEF report finds that, while technology continues to pose both challenges and opportunities to labour markets, employers expect most technologies to contribute positively to job creation.

The fastest-growing roles are being driven by technology and digitalisation. Big Data ranks at the top among technologies seen to create jobs, with 65% of survey respondents expecting job growth in related roles.

The employment of data analysts and scientists, Big Data specialists, AI machine learning specialists and cybersecurity professionals is expected to grow by 30% on average by 2027.

Training workers to use AI and Big Data will be prioritised by 42% of surveyed companies in the next five years, ranking behind analytical thinking (48%) and creative thinking (43%) in importance.

Digital commerce will lead to the largest absolute gains in jobs, with about two-million new digitally enabled roles, such as e-commerce specialists, digital transformation specialists and digital marketing and strategy specialists, to be created.

Simultaneously, the fastest declining roles are also being driven by technology and digitalisation, with clerical or secretarial roles including bank tellers, cashiers and data entry clerks expected to decline fastest.

The ‘Future of Jobs’ report suggests that tasks are seen as no more automated now than they were three years ago when the prior iteration of the report was published.

About 34% of tasks are currently automated, just 1% above the 2020 figure. Surveyed companies also revised down their expectations for further automation, to 42% of tasks by 2027, compared with 2020 estimates of 47% of tasks by 2025.

But while expectations of the displacement of physical and manual work by machines has decreased, reasoning, communicating and coordinating – all traits with a comparative advantage for humans – are expected to be more automatable in the future, the WEF notes.

AI, which is a key driver of potential algorithmic displacement, is expected to be adopted by nearly 75% of surveyed companies and is expected to lead to high churn – with 50% of organisations expecting it to create job growth and 25% expecting it to result in job losses.

Moreover, investments in the green transition and climate change mitigation are opening new opportunities in the labour market.

Sustainability specialist and environmental protection jobs are expected to grow by 33% and 34%, respectively, in the next five years, translating to growth of about one-million jobs.

The report further states that jobs in the education industry are likely to grow by 10%, leading to three-million additional jobs for vocational education teachers and university and higher education teachers.

Jobs for agricultural professionals, particularly equipment operators, graders and sorters, are expected to grow by between 15% and 30%, leading to an additional four-million jobs globally in the next five years.

One respondent, Recruit Holdings Company, finds that while demand for social jobs such as those in health and education have grown faster during the Covid-19 pandemic, these jobs are also harder to fill than others.

“At Recruit, we believe we must continue to embrace AI and technology to help job-seekers and employers as we navigate near-term macroeconomic headwinds and long-term labour market challenges.

“We expect a labour shortage to remain for many years ahead, across many sectors and particularly as the population ages. Therefore, it is essential that we identify new ways to simplify the hiring process to support a thriving economy and society where everyone can prosper together,” notes Recruit director Hisayuki Idekoba.

Another recruitment company Randstand CEO Sander van‘t Noordende says the latest findings in the ‘Future of Jobs’ report call for renewed action from all labour market stakeholders.

“Acceleration in digitalisation, AI and automation are creating tremendous opportunities for the global workforce, but employers, governments and other organisations need to be ready for the disruptions ahead.

“By collectively offering greater skilling resources, more efficiently connecting talent to jobs and advocating for a well-regulated labour market, we can protect and prepare workers for a more specialized and equitable future of work,” he concludes.