In the words of the famous author Elbert Hubbard:
“ONE MACHINE CAN DO THE WORK OF FIFTY ORDINARY MEN, NO MACHINE CAN DO THE WORK OF ONE EXTRAORDINARY MAN”
Disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years. Many of the major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps. In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends—and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.
The future guarantee for employability (finding a job) and continual productivity is a work environment focused on human-only skills:
Subjective reasoning, Imagination, Negotiation, Questioning, Empathising, Story-telling, Connecting, Creativity and Design.
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots. (Albert Einstein)
Past waves of technological advancement and demographic change have led to increased prosperity, productivity and job creation. This does not mean, however, that these transitions were free of risk or difficulty. Anticipating and preparing for the current transition is therefore critical.
In the current era of global value chains, many companies are locating different job functions and categories in different geographic locations to take advantage of the specific strengths of particular local labour markets. Demographic, socio-economic and—increasingly—technological trends and disruptions to the business and operating models of global companies have the potential to rapidly change the dynamics of the global employment landscape. What is the outlook for existing jobs functions, but more importantly what wholly new occupations and fields of specialisation can we expect to in existing and/or emerging industries as well as those that are foreseen to be made obsolete over the coming years.
At the same time, education and training systems are not keeping pace with these shifts. Some studies suggest that 65% of children currently entering primary school will have jobs that do not yet exist and for which their education will fail to prepare them, exacerbating skills gaps and unemployment in the future. Even more urgent, underdeveloped adult training and skilling systems are unable to support learning for the currently active workforce of nearly 3 billion people.
In addition, outdated cultural norms and institutional inertia already create roadblocks for half of the world’s talent – and are getting worse in the new context. Despite women’s leap forward in education, their participation in the paid workforce remains low; and progress is stalling, with current forecasts for economic parity at 170 years.
However, if leaders act now, using this moment of transformation as an impetus for tackling long-overdue reform, they have the ability not only to stem the flow of negative trends but to accelerate positive ones and create an environment in which over 7 billion people on the planet can live up to their full potential.
By investing in human capital and preparing people for the new opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and a radical transformation of the existing educational ecosystems. Many education systems are so far behind the mark on keeping up with the pace of change today and so disconnected from labour markets that nothing short of a fundamental overhaul will suffice in many economies. The eight key areas of action here are: early childhood education, future-ready curricula, a professionalized teaching workforce, early exposure to the workplace, digital fluency, robust and respected technical and vocational education, openness to education innovation, and critically, a new approach to lifelong learning.
The rapid pace of change means we need to act urgently. Transforming education ecosystems, creating a humanistic economy and managing the transition to a new world of work require political will, innovative policy, new financing models and, most importantly, a new mindset.
The fourth industrial revolution will turn the world of work as we know it on its head as it continues to unfold.