Education and Skills

5 things we know about the jobs of the future

Visitors is silhouetted against a cloudy sky on the observation deck of a skyscraper in Tokyo February 23, 2007.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (JAPAN)Also see GF2DWTFXPQAA - GM1DUREDCSAA

Identifying emerging jobs can help us understand the skills and training we need to invest in now Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Tech skills will continue to dominate the jobs of tomorrow;
  • Human skills and your network are still important;
  • There's an imbalance in those acquiring the necessary skills for future jobs - especially between men and women.

As the labour market rapidly changes, new, nearly real-time data and metrics give us better insight than ever before into what the jobs of the future will look like.

The kinds of jobs emerging in the global economy span a wide range of professions and skills, reflecting the opportunities for workers of all backgrounds and educational levels to take advantage of emerging jobs and the new economy. Identifying emerging jobs and the skills that they require provides valuable insights to inform training investments, and paves the way for a “Reskilling Revolution”, as individuals seek new skills to keep pace with change.

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But for all of the opportunities that the new economy will bring, there are stark skills gaps and gender gaps that must be addressed. If we don’t, they will continue to widen in the future.

Here are five things we can learn from this new data:

1. It’s no surprise, but tech skills dominate

Not every emerging job requires hard tech skills, but every emerging job does require basic tech skills such as digital literacy, web development or graphic design. Three of the jobs in the World Economic Forum's Jobs of Tomorrow report – cloud, engineering and data clusters, which are also among the fastest-growing overall – require disruptive tech skills like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, or cloud computing. Because technologies like AI are so pervasive, many roles in areas like sales and marketing will require a basic understanding of AI.

These disruptive tech skills are in high demand across the board. Blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning and AI are among the most in-demand tech skills we see on LinkedIn.

2. Roles requiring more human-centric skills are just as important

While they aren’t growing as quickly as tech-dominated jobs, new sales, content production and HR roles are also emerging as a complement to the rapidly growing tech industry. Our research shows talent acquisition specialists, customer success specialists and social media assistants among the fastest growing professions – all roles that rely on more diverse skills sets, especially soft skills.​

Share of skills clusters by selected professional cluster
Share of skills clusters by selected professional cluster Image: World Economic Forum

Demand for soft skills is likely to continue to increase as automation becomes more widespread. Our latest Global Talent Trends Report shows that HR professionals are identifying the demand for soft skills as the most important trend globally. Skills like creativity, persuasion, and collaboration – which all top our list of most in-demand soft skills – are all virtually impossible to automate, which means if you have these skills you’ll be even more valuable to organizations in the future.

3. With the rapid evolution of jobs, many women are locked out

While the data reflects a diversity of opportunities for workers of all backgrounds and educational levels, further analysis shows a worrying imbalance in those obtaining the latest skills. In our ongoing research on gender with the World Economic Forum, we found that the largest gender gaps among emerging jobs are in roles that rely heavily on disruptive tech skills, with the share of women represented across cloud, engineering and data jobs below 30% (for cloud computing it’s as low as 12%). It’s critical to close this gap because these disruptive tech skills will have an outsized impact on the direction of society and the economy.

While there is certainly room to improve gender parity by embracing greater diversity in hiring and more inclusive managerial practices, our data suggests that those gains, while important, will not be sufficient to achieve parity.

4. There’s untapped talent to fill the gaps in emerging jobs

We have to think creatively about ways to fill these emerging skills and roles so that we prevent these gaps from intensifying in the future. Our research to understand these issues has uncovered some very achievable, scalable solutions.

Firstly, taking advantage of existing and adjacent talent can make a massive contribution to the rapid expansion of talent pipelines. Our research reveals that training and up-skilling “near AI talent” could double the pipeline of AI talent in Europe.

Opportunities by selected professional cluster and occupation, 2014-2019
Opportunities by selected professional cluster and occupation, 2014-2019 Image: World Economic Forum

Taking a similar approach with the gender gap, we’ve found that sub-groups of disruptive tech skills where women have higher representation – genetic engineering, data science, nanotechnology and human-computer interaction – could expand the pipeline of talent for the broader set of tech roles that rely heavily on disruptive tech skills.

5. Who you know – your network – still matters

While both of these approaches can help us make meaningful progress, closing the skills and gender gaps depends on a lot more than just making sure talent has the right skills. It’s a simple truth that who you know matters, so we also have to close the “network gap” – the advantage some people have over others based purely on who they know.

Our research on the network gap shows that living in a high-income neighbourhood, going to a top school and working at a top company can lead to a 12x advantage in accessing opportunities. This means that two people with the exact same skills, but who were born into different neighbourhoods, may be worlds apart when it comes to the opportunities afforded them.

All of these new metrics and insights can help us pinpoint the skills and jobs of the future, but it’s going to take more than data to ensure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is an equitable one. If we are going to make meaningful change, we need businesses and political leaders to re-evaluate the norms through which we shape policy, make hiring decisions and ultimately level the playing field for those who face barriers to opportunity.

As we convene at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, I’m asking leaders to join us in making progress towards closing these gaps. It will create better, more innovative businesses, stronger economies and ultimately help create fairer societies.

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