The Future of Jobs 2018, a new report from the World Economic Forum, includes the organization’s latest forecast of how automation will reshape the future of work. As soon as 2025, the report predicts, more than half of “all current workplace tasks” will be performed by machines, up from 29 percent today. That doesn’t mean the world is facing the mass displacement of human workers by machines: The report predicts that automation will create 133 million new jobs by 2022 even as it destroys 75 million. It does mean, however, that employers and governments need to be proactive in readying the workforce to perform the higher-skill jobs AI, robotics, and other emerging technologies will create, according to a statement from the WEF:
Based on a survey of chief human resources officers and top strategy executives from companies across 12 industries and 20 developed and emerging economies (which collectively account for 70% of global GDP), the report finds that 54% of employees of large companies would need significant re- and up-skilling in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, just over half of the companies surveyed said they planned to reskill only those employees that are in key roles while only one third planned to reskill at-risk workers.
While nearly 50% of all companies expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation, almost 40% expect to extend their workforce generally and more than a quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprise.
The WEF reached its headline figures by extrapolating from the companies it surveyed, where executives predicted a decline of 984,000 jobs and a gain of 1.74 million jobs between now and 2022. The report also finds that all industries are facing significant skills gaps, with regard to both technical skills and “distinctly human skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and persuasion.” Reskilling and upskilling the workforce for this change is “the key challenge of our time,” WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said in the statement.
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The 2018 World Economic Forum, recently concluded in Davos, Switzerland, brought together political, business, and cultural leaders from around the globe to discuss the future of the global economy and its foremost institutions. Gartner EVP Peter Sondergaard was on hand to take in the events and speak with influencers at the forum, where he observed a few key themes in discussions of the future of the workplace: The increasingly digital nature of business, the rise of artificial intelligence, and the impact technology can have on improving diversity and inclusion.
“It became abundantly clear that organizations have reached the point at which the digital workplace must be driven by both CIOs and heads of HR,” Sondergaard explained. This doesn’t mean technology will eliminate the need for people, just that employees will need to work in different ways and companies will need to offer guidance on how to do that. “Such changes will require new models of learning and development,” he continued, “as well as the creation of hybrid workplaces that combine technology and information to accommodate a mix of employees.”
Certainly, we have seen a wide range of technologies promise to reshape how the people and processes of the workplace operate, but artificial intelligence is the driving force behind the most groundbreaking offerings. It’s powering Google Jobs, wearable tech, analytical tools, and voice-activated tech such as Amazon’s Alexa, as well as the automation of processes from candidate sourcing to performance management. As a result, demand for AI talent has skyrocketed as technology providers are scrambling to keep up with the rapid rate of change.
While the rise of AI has fueled fears of the potential for a massive loss of jobs, Sondergaard is confident that AI should ultimately create jobs if deployed properly. “As was true of the Industrial Revolution,” he also pointed out, “technological advances as a result of AI will spur job creation. In 2020, AI will create 2.3 million jobs, while eliminating 1.8 million — a net growth of half a million new positions. Organizations will realize an added benefit as in 2021 AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion of business value and save 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.”
For the first time since it began keeping records in 2006, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report registered a decline this year in gender parity around the globe. The report, which uses data from the WEF’s own surveys and from other major global organizations, measures parity along a series of metrics including political empowerment, economic participation, education, and health. Last year’s report warned that the economic gap between men and women was widening, even as overall parity was improving. This year, it finds, the economic gap is even worse, and at the current rate of progress is projected to persist for another two centuries:
At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to close, compared to 83 last year. The workplace gender gap will now not be closed for 217 years, the report estimates. But with various studies linking gender parity to better economic performance, a number of countries are bucking the dismal global trend: over one-half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months.
“We are moving from the era of capitalism into the era of talentism. Competitiveness on a national and on a business level will be decided more than ever before by the innovative capacity of a country or a company. Those will succeed best, who understand to integrate women as an important force into their talent pool,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
The top-scoring countries for gender parity across all measures are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda, and Sweden. Canada is ranked at #16 and the US at #49, a four-place decline from last year. The WEF highlights Canada and France (#11 as among the countries that have made significant gains in gender parity in the past year. However, a high place on the list doesn’t mean that a country is closing all of its gender gaps, and the economic one is proving the most stubbornly difficult to close.
The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report finds that economic disparity between men and women around the world has only grown larger in recent years and predicts that at the current pace of change, it could take another 170 years to close the gaps in pay and employment opportunities, the Guardian reports:
The report … found that economic disparity between women and men around the world was rising even though the gap was closing on other measures, such as education. When measured in terms of income and employment, the gender gap has widened in the past four years; at 59%, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008. Last year, the WEF predicted it would take 118 years for economic parity to be achieved. …
The authors, Richard Samans and Saadia Zahidi, said they hoped the report “will serve as a call to action for governments to accelerate gender equality through bolder policymaking, to business to prioritise gender equality as a critical talent and moral imperative, and to all of us to become deeply conscious of the choices we make every day that impact gender equality globally”.
More comprehensive than most investigations of the gender pay gap, the annual WEF report, now in its 11th edition, measures gender inequality in terms of health, education, economy and politics. Ivana Kottasova at CNN Money zooms in on what it has to say about the US, where the WEF finds the economic gender gap is also growing, and estimates that closing it would net an additional $1.2 trillion in economic growth per year:
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The World Economic Forum’s annual gathering of economic leaders, tycoons, and celebrities finished up last Saturday in Davos, Switzerland, and the meeting was not short on big ideas about how the world of talent is going to shape up in the near future.
The centerpiece of the discussion was what people are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution (although there’s some debate about whether we are still in the third). The WEF put out a long report with a lot of statistics to help you understand the shift and to scare the world into action—especially with the much-reported statistic that robots are going to steal about 5.1 million jobs by 2020. (You can read the executive summary here—though apparently you must still download PDFs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.)
The revolution, it is argued, ushers in a blurring of the physical and the digital and, importantly, does so at incredible speed and disruption to business. For Fortune editor Alan Murray, the human element of this change was one of the key takeaways from Davos:
Digital transformation is as much about people as technology. I moderated two private CEO-level discussions focused on the digital transformation of industries, and in both, the human challenges trumped technological ones. Companies struggle to create cultures that can embrace rapid technological change, and governments struggle in response to publics more likely to focus on future risks than future benefits.
CEB data certainly bears this out. For the last year, we’ve been tracking the impact of change at organizations as companies have looked to transform both their HR functions and their workforces to better handle the onslaught of change largely generated by the digital revolution. And as the WEF meeting made clear, change in this new era is very different than in the past.