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Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All

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The global economy faces a reskilling crisis with 1.4 million jobs in the US alone vulnerable to disruption from technology and other factors by 2026, according to a new report, Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All, published today by the World Economic Forum.

The report is an analysis of nearly 1,000 job types across the US economy, encompassing 96% of employment in the country. Its aim is to assess the scale of the reskilling task required to protect workforces from an expected wave of automation brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Drawing on this data for the US economy, the report finds that 57% of jobs expected to be disrupted belong to women. If called on today to move to another job with skills that match their own, 16% of workers would have no opportunities to transition and another 25% would have only between one and three matches.

At the other end of the spectrum, 2% of workers have more than 50 options. This group makes up a very small, fortunate minority: on average, all workers would have 10 transition options today.

The positive finding of the report is the huge opportunity identified for reskilling to lift wages and increase social mobility. With reskilling, for example, the average worker in the US economy would have 48 viable job transitions – nearly as much as the 2% with the most options today. Among those transitions, 24 jobs would lead to higher wages.

The case for a reskilling revolution

The research, which is published in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group, finds that coordinated reskilling that aims to maintain or grow wages has very high returns for workers at risk of displacement – and for businesses and the economy. At-risk workers who retrain for an average of two years could receive an average annual salary increase of $15,000 – and business would be able to find talent for jobs that may otherwise remain unfilled. With this approach, up to 95% of at-risk workers would find new work in new, higher-income jobs. Without such coordinated upskilling efforts, the report finds, one in four of at-risk workers would lose on average $8,600 of their annual income even if they are successful in moving to a new job.

However, this reskilling revolution requires that 70% of affected workers retrain in a new job “family” or career, highlighting the need for retraining initiatives that combine reskilling programmes with income support and job-matching schemes to fully support those undergoing this transition.

“The only limiting factor on a world of opportunities for people is the willingness of leaders to make investments in re-skilling that will bridge workers onto new jobs. This report shows that this investment has very high returns for businesses as well as economies – and ensures that workers find a purpose in their lives,” Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

A future of jobs for all

The report also describes what reskilling would need to look like. The people who will do best in the transitions underway are those who have “hybrid” skills – transferable skills like collaboration and critical thinking, as well as deeper expertise in specific areas. Both highly specialized and highly generalist roles will need significant reskilling.

The report lays out 15 job pathways to demonstrate the precise range of options that reskilling can present for professions as diverse as assembly-line workers, secretaries, cashiers, customer service representatives, truck drivers, radio and TV announcers, fast-food chefs, mining machine operators and computer programmers.

However, for these viable and desirable job transitions to come to fruition requires concerted efforts by businesses, policy-makers and various stakeholders to think differently about workforce planning and to invest in reskilling that will bridge workers to new jobs.

“Work provides people with meaning, identity and opportunity. We need to break out of the current paralysis and recognize that skills are the ‘great redistributor’. Equipping people with the skills they need to make job transitions is the fuel needed for growth – and to secure stable livelihoods for people in the midst of technological change,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Work System Initiative and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

A gendered impact

Of the 1.4 million jobs expected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to be disrupted between now and 2026, the majority – 57% – belong to women. This is a worrying development at a time when the workplace gender gap is already widening and when women are under-represented in the areas of the labour market expected to grow most robustly in the coming years. The data show that the current narrative about the most at-risk category is misleading from a gender perspective. For example, there are nearly 164,000 at-risk female secretaries and administrative assistants, while there are just over 90,000 at-risk male assembly-line workers.

Without reskilling, on average, at-risk women have only 12 job transition options, while at-risk men have 22 options. With reskilling, women have 49 options, while men have 80 options. With reskilling, the options gap between women and men narrows. However, these transitions also present an opportunity to close the persistent gender wage gap. Combined reskilling and job transitions would lead to increased wages for 74% of all currently at-risk women, while the equivalent figure for men is 53%.

The many futures of work

Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All is complemented by a second World Economic Forum report launched today: Eight Futures of Work: Scenarios and Their Implications, also produced in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group. It presents eight visions of the future of work in the year 2030.

“The future of work is not predetermined. All of the scenarios we present are possible, but none is certain. It is in our hands to proactively manage the changes underway and build the kind of future that maximizes opportunities for people to fulfil their potential across their entire lifetimes,” says Rich Lesser, Global Chief Executive Officer and President, The Boston Consulting Group.

The scenarios make the case that, while stakeholders cannot definitively choose to bring about any scenario that they might prefer on their own, they can manage the changes underway and influence the future through collaboration. Eight Futures of Work identifies reskilling the current workforce as one of the most critical actions that can be taken to proactively shape a new, positive future of work. Together, both studies aim to provide actionable tools that will help individuals, employers and policy-makers take action to influence a more inclusive and positive future of work.

The World Economic Forum project on Closing the Skills Gap provides a platform for public- and private-sector leaders to work together on reskilling and education reform, and will use both studies to tailor solutions for workers. At the Annual Meeting 2018 in Davos, the project will announce a new target for collaboration to reach workers with appropriate reskilling and retraining.

Methodology

The Towards A Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All report introduces a new methodology built on innovative new data from 50 million online job postings, encompassing 15,000 unique skills, collected over a two-year period by Burning Glass Technologies, the data partner for the report. Combined with labour market statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the data used in the study covers 958 unique types of jobs.

The methodology combines the various aspects of a job, including work activities, skills, knowledge, abilities, years of experience and education, into an index of job-fit to measure the similarity between jobs in the set. While the methodology uses the United States labour market as an example, it can be applied to a variety of job requirements and sources of data to map out job-transition opportunities in diverse labour markets, and will be expanded in the future.

The Eight Futures of Work: Scenarios and Their Implications report creates eight potential worlds based on how different combinations of three key variables may come together – the rate of technological change and its impact on business models; the evolution of learning among the current and future workforce; and the magnitude of talent mobility across geographies.

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Post-COVID-19, regaining citizen’s trust should be a priority for governments

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coronavirus people

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated governments’ ability to respond to a major global crisis with extraordinary flexibility, innovation and determination. However, emerging evidence suggests that much more could have been done in advance to bolster resilience and many actions may have undermined trust and transparency between governments and their citizens, according to a new OECD report.

Government at a Glance 2021 says that one of the biggest lessons of the pandemic is that governments will need to respond to future crises at speed and scale while safeguarding trust and transparency. “Looking forward, we must focus simultaneously on promoting the economic recovery and avoiding democratic decline” said OECD Director of Public Governance Elsa Pilichowski. “Reinforcing democracy should be one of our highest priorities.”

 Countries have introduced thousands of emergency regulations, often on a fast track. Some alleviation of standards is inevitable in an emergency, but must be limited in scope and time to avoid damaging citizen perceptions of the competence, openness, transparency, and fairness of government.

 Governments should step up their efforts in three areas to boost trust and transparency and reinforce democracy:

 Tackling misinformation is key. Even with a boost in trust in government sparked by the pandemic in 2020, on average only 51% of people in OECD countries for which data is available trusted their government. There is a risk that some people and groups may be dissociating themselves from traditional democratic processes.

 It is crucial to enhance representation and participation in a fair and transparent manner. Governments must seek to promote inclusion and diversity, support the representation of young people, women and other under-represented groups in public life and policy consultation. Fine-tuning consultation and engagement practices could improve transparency and trust in public institutions, says the report. Governments must also level the playing field in lobbying. Less than half of countries have transparency requirements covering most of the actors that regularly engage in lobbying.

 Strengthening governance must be prioritised to tackle global challenges while harnessing the potential of new technologies. In 2018, only half of OECD countries had a specific government institution tasked with identifying novel, unforeseen or complex crises. To be fit for the future, and secure the foundations of democracy, governments must be ready to act at speed and scale while safeguarding trust and transparency.

 Governments must also learn to spend better, according to Government at a Glance 2021. OECD countries are providing large amounts of support to citizens and businesses during this crisis: measures ongoing or announced as of March 2021 represented, roughly, 16.4% of GDP in additional spending or foregone revenues, and up to 10.5% of GDP via other means. Governments will need to review public spending to increase efficiency, ensure that spending priorities match people’s needs, and improve the quality of public services.

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Sweden: Invest in skills and the digital economy to bolster the recovery from COVID-19

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Sweden’s economy is on the road to recovery from the shock of the COVID-19 crisis, yet risks remain. Moving ahead with a labour reform to facilitate adaptation in a fast-changing economic environment, and investing in digital skills and infrastructure, will be crucial to revive employment and build a sustainable recovery, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Sweden.

The pandemic triggered a severe recession in Sweden, despite mild distancing measures and swift government action to protect people and businesses. GDP fell by less than in many other European economies in 2020, thanks to reinforced short-time work, compensation to firms for lost revenue and measures to prop up the financial system, but unemployment still rose sharply. Solid public finances provided room for further stimulus in 2021 to buttress the recovery.

 The Survey recommends maintaining targeted support to people and firms until the pandemic subsides, then focusing on strengthening vocational training and skills and increasing investment in areas like high-speed internet and low-carbon transport. Addressing regional inequality, which is low but rising, should also be a priority as the recovery takes hold.

 The Survey shows that Sweden has been among the most resilient OECD countries in the face of a historic shock. Yet, like other economies, it faces challenges from demographic changes and the shift to green, digital economies. Investments in education and training, and labour reforms along the lines negotiated by the social partners, will support job creation and strengthen economic resilience. Building on Sweden’s leadership in digital innovation and diffusion will also be key for driving productivity.

 After a 3% contraction in 2020, interrupting several years of growth, the Survey projects a rebound in activity with 3.9% growth in 2021 and 3.4% in 2022 as industrial production resumes and exports recover. The recovery in world trade is bolstering the Swedish economy, however the country remains vulnerable to potential disruptions in global value chains.  

The pandemic has aggravated a mismatch in Sweden’s job market, with unfilled vacancies for highly qualified workers coinciding with high unemployment for low-skilled workers and immigrants. The public employment service needs strengthening to provide better support to jobseekers, including immigrants and women, and labour policies should strike the right balance between supporting businesses and workers and supporting transitions away from declining businesses towards growing sectors.

A rising share of youths and older people in the population, especially in remote areas, is affecting the finances of local governments, which provide the bulk of welfare services. Strengthening local government budgets and ensuring equal welfare provision across the country will require providing tax income to poorer regions more efficiently and raising the economic growth potential across regions through investments in innovation. Improving coordination between government entities and reinforcing the role of universities in local economic networks would help achieve that aim.

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Fewer women than men will regain work during COVID-19 recovery

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Generations of progress stands to be lost on women and girls' empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: ILO

Fewer women will regain jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic during the recovery period, than men, according to a new study released on Monday by the UN’s labour agency.  

In Building Forward Fairer: Women’s rights to work and at work at the core of the COVID-19 recovery, the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights that between 2019 and 2020, women’s employment declined by 4.2 per cent globally, representing 54 million jobs, while men suffered a three per cent decline, or 60 million jobs. 

This means that there will be 13 million fewer women in employment this year compared to 2019, but the number of men in work will likely recover to levels seen two years ago. 

This means that only 43 per cent of the world’s working-age women will be employed in 2021, compared to 69 per cent of their male counterparts. 

The ILO paper suggests that women have seen disproportionate job and income losses because they are over-represented in the sectors hit hardest by lockdowns, such as accommodation, food services and manufacturing. 

Regional differences 

Not all regions have been affected in the same way. For example, the study revealed that women’s employment was hit hardest in the Americas, falling by more than nine per cent.  

This was followed by the Arab States at just over four per cent, then Asia-Pacific at 3.8 per cent, Europe at 2.5 per cent and Central Asia at 1.9 per cent. 

In Africa, men’s employment dropped by just 0.1 per cent between 2019 and 2020, while women’s employment decreased by 1.9 per cent. 

Mitigation efforts 

Throughout the pandemic, women faired considerably better in countries that took measures to prevent them from losing their jobs and allowed them to get back into the workforce as early as possible. 

In Chile and Colombia, for example, wage subsidies were applied to new hires, with higher subsidy rates for women.  

And Colombia and Senegal were among those nations which created or strengthened support for women entrepreneurs.  

Meanwhile, in Mexico and Kenya quotas were established to guarantee that women benefited from public employment programmes. 

Building forward 

To address these imbalances, gender-responsive strategies must be at the core of recovery efforts, says the agency. 

It is essential to invest in the care economy because the health, social work and education sectors are important job generators, especially for women, according to ILO. 

Moreover, care leave policies and flexible working arrangements can also encourage a more even division of work at home between women and men. 

The current gender gap can also be tackled by working towards universal access to comprehensive, adequate and sustainable social protection. 

Promoting equal pay for work of equal value is also a potentially decisive and important step. 

Domestic violence and work-related gender-based violence and harassment has worsened during the pandemic – further undermining women’s ability to be in the workforce – and the report highlights the need to eliminate the scourge immediately. 

Promoting women’s participation in decision-making bodies, and more effective social dialogue, would also make a major difference, said ILO. 

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