Choosing a career is one of the greatest challenges for young people worldwide. Which job skills will be in the highest demand in the next five to ten years? Which jobs are most likely to decline under the double threats of automation and the disruptions caused by Covid-19?
Young people who are uncertain about what to study and those already in the labour force are understandably anxious about questions like these. Recent research from the World Economic Forum could help guide their decisions.
In August 2021, the World Economic Forum’s “Davos Lab” published a report titled “Youth Recovery Plan”. It explored the hopes and concerns of young people between the ages of 20 and 30 around the world about their skills and readiness for jobs.
The report was based on responses to an online survey and virtual interviews with immigrants, heads of state, and public figures in 187 countries.
Its recommendations often make use of insights from an earlier World Economic Forum document, “The Future of Jobs Report 2020.”
In the “Youth Recovery” report, almost 50 percent of young people surveyed said they felt inadequately skilled, while nearly 25 percent said they risked falling into debt if faced with an unexpected medical expense.
“Nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods, with the most acutely affected being the working poor, youth, women and minorities,” the report states.
The report highlighted the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the workforce. It itemised three priorities: equality of labour rights for vulnerable groups, such as young people, women and minorities; stronger social-safety nets to support market sectors severely affected by Covid-19; and the need for employers to take responsibility for training workers in new skills.
Will My Job Exist in a Decade?
The youth survey asked participants how confident they were that their current skills would guarantee them a decent job for the next five to ten years. Just over 16 percent of respondents were “fully confident” their skills were sufficient; about 37 percent were “mostly confident”; 35 percent were “somewhat confident”; and nearly 12 percent were “not confident at all”.
The survey also asked respondents how important various aspects of potential jobs were to them when searching for a job. Salary was ranked most important, at 23.1 percent. Job advancement came next, at 18.3 percent, followed by societal impact (15.4%), organisational culture (11.5%), job security (10.7%), flexible hours and remote working possibilities (7.5%), employer reputation (7.2%), and benefits like medical insurance (6.3%).
Equity and Training Issues
The “Youth Recovery” report highlighted the benefits of providing equal opportunities for men and women in hiring. Global gross domestic product would rise by $12 trillion in 2025, it said, if all countries matched the progress in gender parity of the fastest-improving country in their region.
Noting earlier predictions that automation would yield a surplus in jobs, especially for higher-skilled workers, the report stressed the need for employers to take responsibility for helping workers learn new skills.
It also saw opportunities in the growing awareness of the need for climate action. It advised higher-education institutions to develop new curricula that prepare graduates for jobs “in a rapidly decarbonizing world”.
Future Job Skills
The earlier “Future of Jobs 2020” report predicted that 50 percent of all employees would need new skills by 2025, as a result of the “double-disruption” of the pandemic and increasing automation.
Some 85 million jobs may be displaced by automation, it said. However, 97 million new jobs are likely to emerge in the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.
The report said that critical thinking and problem-solving topped the list of skills employers believed would be needed most, followed by self-management skills such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
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“Cross-cutting” skills that are transferable across many occupations will be in particular demand. Also expected to be in greater demand are skills in areas like leadership and social influence; use of new technology, monitoring and control; technology design and programming; resilience and stress tolerance; and reasoning and ideation.
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