Optimism gap ... there's a big difference between the confidence of young people in middle-income nations and those of developed nations Image: REUTERS
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Almost half of today's youth believe their jobs could be gone in the next 10 years, but young people living in middle-income economies say they're ready to make the jump into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The youth of Brazil, India and South Africa lead the world as the most confident emerging workforce, followed by China and the United States.
A recent report, published by Infosys during the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting this year, shows a substantial gap between the confidence of young people in middle-income nations and those of developed nations. Whilst 74% of Brazilians were either optimistic or very optimistic about their future, only about half of Europeans and Australians could say the same.
A global workforce means more competition
Worldwide, young people agree that that globalization is the driving cause for an ever more competitive job market. Countries where tech jobs are in high demand were particularly feeling the pressure. Germany and India both averaged 75%.
In the United States, women were far more concerned about international competition than men. While 74% of US women surveyed said globalization had made the workplace more competitive, only 55% of men agreed. It is a telling statistic. The US ranked 28th overall in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report, but has lagged in labour-force participation, where it only ranked 51st.
Despite the global rise in competition, people in middle-income countries still felt they had the opportunity for a better life than that of their parents. That sentiment, meanwhile, has all but disappeared in the West. Nearly three-quarters of French, Australian and British youth felt that they would not achieve the same levels of prosperity, compared with only half of Indians, Brazilians and Chinese.
Education needs to go beyond the classroom
Few would dispute that the skills of tomorrow need to be learned today. The West, however, seems to be falling behind in this endeavor. While less than half of those surveyed felt their education was boring or old fashioned, young people were twice as likely to say so.
Confidence in entering the workplace was again a feeling shared mostly among those in middle-income economies.
But education is only half the battle. According to the survey, a degree in computer sciences or math was no more advantageous in the office than one in design or humanities. In fact, there was no specific education that people felt had adequately prepared them for the fast-paced, ever-changing workplace of today.
The majority of education, it turns out, happens on site. Over two-thirds of respondents said that they had to learn new skills in their current jobs. Again, that number was highest in developed nations, rising to almost 80% in the United Kingdom, US and Australia.
The need for so-called "soft skills" was, in the minds of many, the most crucial aspect of the modern workplace. Skills such as communications, relationship-building and problem-solving were prioritized between 86% (Australia) and 79% (Brazil), compared with academic achievement, which scored only between 50% (South Africa) and 36% (Germany).
Employers expectations, as perceived by those surveyed, were also focused on soft skills. While technical skills were important, time management, people management and active learning were all considered to be either more important or of equal importance.
The survey polled 1,000 people per county (700 in South Africa) aged 16 to 25 in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, the UK and US.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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