The ongoing disruption to labour markets from the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been further complicated - and in some cases accelerated - by the onset of the pandemic-related recession of 2020.
The most relevant question to businesses, governments and individuals is not to what extent automation and augmentation of human labour will affect current employment numbers, but under what conditions the global labour market can be supported towards a new equilibrium in the division of labour between human workers, robots and algorithms. The technological disruptions which were in their infancy in previous editions of the Future of Jobs Report are currently accelerated and amplified alongside the COVID-19 recession as evidenced by findings from the 2020 Future of Jobs Survey. While it remains difficult to establish the long-term consequences of the pandemic on the demand for products and services in severely affected industries, supporting workers during this transition will protect one of the key assets of any company and country—its human capital.
In this new context, for the first time in recent years, job creation is starting to lag behind job destruction—and this factor is poised to affect disadvantaged workers with particular ferocity. Businesses are set to accelerate the digitalization of work processes, learning, expansion of remote work, as well as the automation of tasks within an organization. This report identifies one result of the pandemic as an increasing urgency to address the disruption underway both by supporting and retraining displaced workers and by monitoring the emergence of new opportunities in the labour market.
As unemployment figures rise, it is of increasing urgency to expand social protection, including support for retraining to displaced and at-risk workers as they navigate the paths towards new opportunities in the labour market and towards the ‘jobs of tomorrow’. Addressing the current challenges posed by COVID-19, in tandem with the disruption posed by technological change, requires renewed public service innovation for the benefit of affected workers everywhere. It also demands that leaders embrace stakeholder capitalism and pay closer attention to the long-dividends of investing in human and social capital. The current moment provides an opportunity for leaders in business, government, and public policy to focus common efforts on improving the access and delivery of reskilling and upskilling, motivating redeployment and reemployment, as well as signalling the market value of learning that can be delivered through education technology at scale.
To address the substantial challenges facing the labour market today, governments must pursue a holistic approach, creating active linkages and coordination between education providers, skills, workers and employers, and ensuring effective collaboration between employment agencies, regional governments and national governments.
Such efforts can be strengthened by multistakeholder collaboration between companies looking to support their workforce; governments willing to fund reskilling and the localization of mid-career education programmes; professional services firms and technology firms that can map potential job transitions or provide reskilling services; labour unions aware of the impact of those transitions on the well-being of workers; and community organizations that can give visibility to the efficacy of new legislation and provide early feedback on its design.