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The Workforce of the Future
Jan 02, 2018
Currently, the industrial and commercial labor worlds are facing an unprecedented rate of rapid change. New technologies are becoming old-news almost as soon as they hit the marketplace, social attitudes fluctuate with the share of a Tweet, and government policies struggle to keep up with high tech developments. All of this adds up to the inability to predict how the workforce will evolve over the course of the next decade. With the future so uncertain, how can companies and individuals continue to maintain relevance?
According to a report compiled by PwC, a global industry-focused service provider and consulting company, keeping up with the unknown realities of tomorrow means reshaping the traditional business conventions of today into flexible practices that can adapt and vacillate with the changing tides. The report’s conclusions are derived from the findings of a research project that began in 2007 and are based on the collected surveys from 10,000 people in the US, the UK, India, Germany, and China.
Using all of this compiled information, the report identifies several “megatrends” that will play a substantial role in molding the future global workforce over the next decade.
The dynamic and constant expansion of technology is currently precipitating the progression of Industry 4.0. As humanity moves toward a more automated existence, it is becoming increasingly critical that individuals, governments, organizations, and society become more mindful about how this accelerated modernization will affect the workforce. Automation, robotics, AI, and other technological advancements are undeniably going to have a huge impact on the number and nature of available jobs in the future. The report stresses that not only will workers have to reevaluate their existing proficiencies and develop new skills regularly, but organizations will also have to restructure themselves and embrace ideas that balance how the human labor force can coexist with the new technology.
According to PwC, the world’s population will rapidly increase by over a billion people by 2030. Furthermore, they estimate that 97% of this population growth will come from developing nations. They also note that individuals in almost all regions are experiencing longer lifespans. As a result, the workforce of 2030 will be flooded with more working-age individuals than ever before, which will create enormous pressures on both employers and employees. Companies will be faced with the burden of accommodating a huge workforce, while workers will be pushed into a constant high-stake competition. PwC also predicts that, because the job market will be connected on a more international scale, the workforce will likely be extremely diverse.
Historically, urbanization has always played an extensive role in financial, social, and technological development. Since cities offer a wide range of largescale resources, it’s unsurprising that many companies launch or anchor their businesses in urban settings. As such, there is generally a plethora of jobs available in cities at all times. Naturally, this attracts a high number of job seekers, resulting in a substantial influx of new workers. In order to care for a larger population, governing agencies and influential corporations are obligated to focus on creating and maintaining social systems and infrastructure, which in turn creates even more jobs.
This continuous cycle of job creation has transformed cities all over the world into commercial and industrial hubs. Evidence that the urban world is the heart of the modern workforce can be seen in the fact that more than half of the global population already lives in urban areas, and also by how much wealth emanates from cities and other urban communities. For example, in 2015 approximately 85% of the global GDP was generated from cities. Consequently, it is highly probable that the urbanized workforce trend will continue beyond 2030, especially in developing nations.
Shifts in Global Economic Power
Since developing nations are anticipated to experience massive population growth and rapid urbanization, PwC points out that the stage will be set for these countries to emerge as major powerhouses in the workforce by the time 2030 rolls around. Particularly, developing nations that feature a high number of working-age individuals, a focus on business, appealing investment opportunities, and improved education systems stand to gain the most regarding power and prosperity. Meanwhile, as developing nations are expanding their influence on the global economy, well-established countries will be vulnerable to severe social and economic issues, including the deterioration of the middle class, wealth disparity, and job loss due to robotic and automated technologies. Not only will these issues profoundly affect these nations fiscally, but they will also increase the risk of social unrest.
Resource Scarcity and Climate Change
The Earth’s natural resources are currently being pushed to the limit regarding fossil fuels, energy, food, and even water. Although 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 3% of that water is fresh, and only a quarter of that is accessible as drinking water. To put this in perspective, if the entirety of Earth’s water were equal to a gallon, only 9.6 ounces would be drinkable. Paradoxically, while drinking water is trending towards becoming a scarce commodity, sea levels are rising at an expedited rate due to climate change. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the planet’s future success will require serious changes to the present models of industry and consumption. However, although this paints a bleak picture of the future, PwC sees extensive opportunities for sectors such as alternative energy, waste management, recycling, and other environmentally-conscious markets. Furthermore, climate change and resource scarcity will eventually prompt the vast majority of organizations to adopt sustainable practices and reconstruct traditional business systems.
The Four Workforce Worlds of 2030
PwC uses these megatrends to envision four possible workforce “worlds” of 2030. To create these worlds, the report focuses on collectivism versus individualism, and integration versus fragmentation (aka large corporations versus small business). Each of these four worlds lies at the intersections of these concepts, and are represented by different colors: yellow, red, green, and blue.
The Yellow World
The “Yellow World” represents how a workforce governed by collectivist tenets, and a focus on small business would look. Ethical brands, crowdfunded projects, a search for meaning, and areas in which artisans and makers succeed are the prevailing elements that define the Yellow World.
The Red World
Small business is also represented through the “Red World,” where the fragmented sentiment is paired up with the concept of individuality. In this world, highly talented professionals race against each other in an unending marathon of progress. Business is dominated by contract-based employment, and high value is placed on intellectual property and freedom.
The Green World
The collectivist “Green World” features large corporations that use social conscience as the foundation of their business. Driven by public opinion and resource scarcity, these corporations promote ideologies that target trust, human rights, and environmental responsibility.
The Blue World
On the other end of the spectrum, the “Blue World” emphasizes a strong capitalistic system that places social issues below the needs of individuals and consumers. This stimulates intense competition amongst employees, while the corporations themselves undergo exponential growth in terms of capital and power.
According to the report, elements from each of these worlds are visible in the future’s horizon with some scenarios being more likely than others. To remain compatible with Industry 4.0, drastic changes will have to be implemented on both a micro and a macro scale. Additionally, recognizing the direction of the wind concerning demographics and global trends will be essential to ensuring smooth sailing over the unknown waters of the future. Organizations and individuals alike must embrace ideologies that promote being more proactive in the present, making decisions that can be readjusted to fit multiple scenarios, avoiding reliance on familiar comfort zones, and keeping up to date with the latest technological advancements. While the future outlook for the global workforce is ambiguous and unpredictable, awareness and flexibility are the core qualities that will navigate employers and employees through the constantly shifting landscape that they presently face.
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