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The ‘future of work’ has arrived early because of Covid-19 – WEF report

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The ‘future of work’ has arrived early because of Covid-19 – WEF report

21st October 2020

By: Thabi Madiba
Creamer Media Researcher and Writer


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The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has caused the labour market to change faster than expected, accelerating the arrival of the future of work, according to The Future of Jobs 2020 report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

WEF director Saadia Zahidi said Covid-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of jobs, adding that accelerating automation and the fallout from Covid-19 reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007/08.


The WEF report indicated that by 2025, automation and a new division of labour between humans and machines will disrupt 85-million jobs globally in medium and large business across 15 industries and 26 economies.

Zahidi explained that it meant that in just five years, the time spent by working by humans and machines would be equal.


"We're seeing a double disruption of jobs. But there is reason to be optimistic. Roles in areas such as data entry, accounting and administrative support are decreasing in demand as automation and digitisation in the workplace increases,” she said.

The Future of Jobs report highlighted that more than 80% of business executives were accelerating plans to digitise work processes and deploy new technologies, while 50% of employers were expecting to accelerate the automation of some roles in their companies.

Zahidi called on businesses, governments and workers to plan to urgently work together to implement a new vision for the global workforce.

The report also highlighted that 43% of businesses surveyed indicated they were set to reduce their workforce owing to technology integration, while 41% plan to expand the use of contractors for task-specialised work, and 34% plan to expand workforce owing to technology integration.

LinkedIn chief economist Karin Kimbrough stated that 97-million jobs will be created and adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.

Reskilling and Upskilling Workforce

Meanwhile, the individuals and communities most negatively affected by the unprecedented changes brought about by Covid-19 were likely to be those that were already most disadvantaged, the report found.

WEF report partner, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda indicated that while the pandemic had disproportionately impacted millions of low-skilled workers, the recovery should include a coordinated reskilling effort by institutions to provide accessible and job-relevant learning that individuals can take from anywhere to return to the workforce.
He said that currently, only 21% of businesses worldwide were able to make use of public funds for reskilling and upskilling programmes.

“The public sector will need a three-tiered approach to help workers. This includes providing stronger safety nets for displaced workers, improving the education and training systems and creating incentives for investments in markets and the jobs of tomorrow,” he said.

Remote Working

With 84% of employers set to rapidly digitalise working processes, employers indicated that there was the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely.
The report suggested that 78% of business leaders expected some negative impact on worker productivity, citing that some industries and companies were struggling to adapt quickly enough to the shift to remote working caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.


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