Last updated: 09:05 / Monday, 25 January 2016
World Economic Forum

Five Million Jobs by 2020: the Real Challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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Five Million Jobs by 2020: the Real Challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Developments in artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption
  • 7.1 million jobs could be lost through redundancy, automation or disintermediation, and 2.1 million new jobs will be created, mainly in families such as: Computer and Mathematical or Architecture and Engineering
  • Healthcare is expected to experience the greatest negative impact in terms of jobs in the next five years, followed jointly by Energy and Financial Services and Investors
  • In Financial Services 43% of the top skills needed in all job families across the industry are expected to change by 2020

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape. This is the finding of a new report, The Future of Jobs, published last Moday by the World Economic Forum.

The report is based on a survey of chief human resources officers and top strategy executives from companies across nine broad industry categories and covering 15 of the world's largest economies. These are; Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus the ASEAN and GCC groups. Together, these economies account for 65% of the global workforce.

In terms of overall impact, the report indicates that the nature of change over the next five years is such that as many as 7.1 million jobs could be lost through redundancy, automation or disintermediation, with the greatest losses in white-collar office and administrative roles. This loss is predicted to be partially offset by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs, mainly in more specialized “job families”, such as Computer and Mathematical or Architecture and Engineering.

These predictions are likely to be relatively conservative and leave no room for complacency. Yet the impact of disruption will vary considerably across industry and gender as well as job type. For example, Healthcare is expected to experience the greatest negative impact in terms of jobs in the next five years, followed jointly by Energy and Financial Services and Investors. The industry that stands to create the most jobs, perhaps less surprisingly, is Information and Communication Technology, followed by Professional Services and Media, Entertainment and Information professionals.

When it comes to respondents’ outlook on how best to deal with these sweeping changes, the news is more encouraging. The most popular workforce strategy across every industry is investing in reskilling current employees. Other practices, such as supporting mobility and job rotation, attracting female and foreign talent and offering apprenticeships, also scored high.

Drivers of change

Drivers of change will also have a very disparate impact within specific industries. For example, processing power and big data will have an especially strong impact on Information and Communication Technology, Financial Services and Professional Services. The rising middle class in emerging markets will have the largest effect on Consumer, Financial Services and Mobility. Consumer ethics and privacy issues will have a significant impact on the Consumer, Financial Services and Information and Communication Technology sectors.

The business model changes created by these drivers will, in turn, have specific and different consequences for employment and skills needs in each industry. While there is a modestly positive outlook for employment across most sectors over the 2015-2020 period, underneath this aggregate outlook there is significant relative growth in some job families and significant relative decline in others. Skills instability is expected to impact all industries but is particularly pronounced in Financial Services where 43% of the top skills needed in all job families across the industry are expected to change by 2020.

You may find the complete report following this link.

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