What are the necessary changes, policies and collaborative efforts to ensure a positive transition to future jobs in production and manufacturing? We are now at the brink of a new age, one in which technological advances are radically transforming the labour market across all industry sectors, but perhaps most pronounced in manufacturing. Traditionally, the manufacturing sector has been a critical source of employment, not only in advanced economies but also in emerging economies. Today, global employment in manufacturing alone accounts for 16% of total global employment, providing both highly skilled and low-skilled jobs around the world.
New technologies are changing the skills required in production, altering the number of jobs available in the sector but also the nature of jobs in production. Technology and automation have raised significant anxiety about negative employment implications. Globally, the increasing gap between skills needed for future jobs in manufacturing and workers' current skill sets will have significant implications for the future workforce in terms of demographics and location, which will inevitably also impact the spread of wealth at national, regional and global levels. However, new technologies and the demand for new goods and services will lead to the adaptation of existing jobs as well as the creation of new occupations. For instance, after the introduction of the personal computer in the early 1980s, more than 1500 new job titles appeared in the job market, from software programmers to database administrators. The production workforce will need to upgrade and relocate its skills from traditional manufacturing roles to these new jobs.
The key focus of the Employment and Skills for the Future of Production project will be the length and depth of the adjustment period, the relative nature of new jobs created in comparison to those being displaced, and the regional pattern of change. Policymakers, corporate boards, educators and labour unions need new collaborative approaches to ensure a smooth transition to the future of employment and skills in production. Now more than ever, there is a real need for a platform to harness public– private cooperation to address the changing nature of the skills and jobs needed in the future of the production sector. The World Economic Forum is uniquely positioned to provide an effective platform for dialogue and collaborative action.
The Employment and Skills for the Future of Production project will analyse the changing nature of existing jobs by sector and region in production, consider the impact that new technologies will have on the geography of production, and identify future job opportunities in production-related sectors that new technologies will create.
The goal of the Employment and Skills for the Future of Production project, based on feedback from the Board of Stewards and other policymakers, businesses and labour union leaders during the Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017 is to: