The Future of Jobs: More Automation and More Remote Work
Alex Margolin| Nov 05, 2020
Companies across the globe are increasing the rate of automation, remote work, and digitization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the 2020 Future of Jobs report published by the World Economic Forum. Many jobs, the report states, will be transformed and employers will look to retrain their employees to meet their technology needs.
The future of work has been a hot discussion topic in recent years, with many business analysts trying to forecast the impact of automation, which has the potential to displace jobs and create new ones. The new report looks at the unexpected disruption caused by the pandemic as well as the trends that are likely to influence what jobs will look like in the next five years.
The report finds that companies remain committed to implementing technological solutions such as cloud computing, data analysis, and e-commerce, while also increasing investment in encryption, Artificial Intelligence, and especially automation.
“Among the business leaders surveyed, just over 80% report that they are accelerating the automation of their work processes and expanding their use of remote work” the report states. “A significant 50% also indicate that they are set to accelerate the automation of jobs in their companies.”
In parallel, companies are experiencing a skills gap in many areas of technology leading to deeper investment in their own employees. The report indicates that 55.4% of companies surveyed report skills gaps in the local labor market, and 46.7% experienced an inability to attract specialized talent.
“Business leaders consistently cite difficulties when hiring for Data Analysts and Scientists, AI and Machine Learning Specialists as well as Software and Application Developers, among other emerging roles,” the report states.
“In the absence of ready talent, employers polled for the Future of Jobs Survey indicate that, on average, they provide access to reskilling and upskilling to 62% of their workforce, and that by 2025 they will expand that provision to a further 11% of their workforce. However, employee engagement into those courses is lagging, with only 42% of employees taking up employer-supported reskilling and upskilling opportunities.”
Remote Work is the New Normal
While Covid-19 has forced many companies to shift to a remote working model, the change appears to be sustainable even beyond the current emergency. With companies unsure if and when the situation will return to the pre-pandemic status quo, jobs that can be performed remotely have grown in value to employers.
Work from home opportunities have grown from 28% in 2011 to 54% in 2020, the report states, with growth greatly accelerated due to the pandemic. As a result, at least some level of remote work is becoming a regular feature of the modern workforce.
“There is actually an emerging marketplace for remote work–as evidenced by both strong demand from job seekers as well as an increasing demand from employers for jobs that are based remotely,” the report states.
This trend could reach a limit in the future, however, as many business leaders report feeling pessimistic about productivity in the new environment: “Overall, 78% of business leaders expect some negative impact of the current way of working on worker productivity, with 22% expecting a strong negative impact and only 15% believing that it will have no impact or a positive impact on productivity.”
Research also shows that the market favors companies that were taking progressive steps forward in the area of remote work: “While companies with established remote work practices are accustomed to a range of approaches to maintaining a sense of community, of active collaboration and ensuring a flow of communication, newly remote companies are still establishing these ways of communicating and coordinating in the new, post-pandemic world of work.”
The Digital Workplace is Closer Than Ever
With mandated closures across the globe in response to the Covid emergency, companies are increasingly adopting technology in order to maintain productivity. Automation and remote work are two of the biggest results of that process, but overall, increasing the use of digital tools is on the agenda for a large percentage of companies (84%).
While basic tools such as video conferencing have become ubiquitous in the business world during closures, companies are learning how to use these tools to increase productivity and connectedness among remote workers in the present and the future.
The adoption of other digital tools varies according to industry: “Artificial intelligence is finding the broadest adaptation among the Digital Information and Communications, Financial Services, Healthcare, and Transportation industries. Big data, the Internet of Things and Non-Humanoid Robotics are seeing strong adoption in Mining and Metals, while the Government and the Public Sector industry show a distinctive focus on encryption.”
The accelerated digital transformation of work is also expected to lead to new occupations, many of which will counter-balance the loss of jobs due to automation. The report refers to “jobs of tomorrow” – emerging professions that reflect the adoption of new technologies and the increasing demand for new products and services. These emerging professions include “green economy jobs, roles at the forefront of the data and AI economy, as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing, and product development.”
The hallmark of many new jobs will be the interplay between technology and human interaction – “roles where a facility or aptitude for understanding and being comfortable working with different types of people from different backgrounds is critical.”
The report notes that in the short-term, and especially in response to the Covid emergency, the pace of jobs lost is likely to be greater than the number of jobs created. The good news, however, is that the overall impact of technology will be positive in terms of the net number of jobs, but in the short-term, especially in
“We estimate that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms,” the report states.
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