In advanced economies, wage inequality is rising. Worker wages have remained relatively stagnant for the past half-century. The job market is becoming more competitive and we are also facing a mild recession. So it makes sense that we are seeing what the future holds.
In a report called "The Future of Jobs," the World Economic Forum reports that we are entering the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", a special era with an increased understanding of science and technology. The report goes on to say that many industries will become less niche-specific or vanish altogether with future advancements.
For job seekers, the difficulty will remain in keeping up with the market. "In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate."
The "drivers of change" for the job market will not only affect what we work on, but how we work. In the United States, the top trends impacting future industries include the "changing nature of work and the flexible workplace", the "mobile internet and cloud technology", and "Big Data." With these trends, the World Economic Forum suggests that organizations will hire fewer people to work onsite and will instead rely on remote workers in the future.
Moreover, the 21st century is placing an increasing importance on the emerging world. Asia will lead the middle class by 2030, making up 66% of the global middle-class and accounting for 59% of middle-class consumption. Figures suggest that a diverse background and the ability to speak multiple languages will help people fare better in these markets.
The rising participation of women in the workplace will also drive growth in a variety of industries. Other industries will begin to value the power of women as consumers more, too.
Even so, the job fields with the highest projected growth like engineering, architecture, and mathematics are still hiring disproportionately fewer women. "If current industry gender gap trends persist...women are at risk of losing out on tomorrow's best job opportunities." In conjunction with this, if the gender gap persists, companies will lose out on tomorrow's untapped workers.
In response to these stark truths, companies are valuing women for the future. More than 25% of the companies that the World Economic Forum reported on seek to heavily incorporate women in their workforce. More than half actively promote women's participation via sustained leadership. The World Economic Forum advises that in order to increase gender diversity, organizations must push forward agendas from the top down to support women in the workplace.
Another area of progress that organizations are likely to capitalize on is "Machine Learning". This field could allow robots to perform functions they were previously rendered too difficult. The reports add a caveat to this advancement, saying that it will likely eliminate 5.1 millions jobs within the next five years because of automation. Many people are fearful of this fact.
Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal reminds us that this fear is not new. During the Industrial Revolution, textile workers smashed new machinery, fretting that their employment was at risk. In the end however, the First Industrial Revolution caused many other industries to flourish, resulting in demand for employment in new sectors.
The World Economic Forum says that the worst case scenario of such developments would be "technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality." To prevent this, workers must be constantly "reskilled and upskilled" to match the changing markets.
The most highly regarded employers in our world, like Google and Microsoft, may already be ahead of the game. These companies emphasize that above all else, their employees should be teachable. They seek people with an ability to understand new things quickly.
But the movement is not only limited to tech industries. We can see members of every sphere, from education to finance, advocating for adaptability. The major proponents of liberal arts educations claim that their degrees taught them how to think and learn throughout their entire life. Key financial players always look for open-minded workers who are not afraid to enter new markets. These industries will help give rise to a group of workers who are best suited for a changing job market and the "Fourth Industrial Revolution".
- World Economic Forum. The Future of Jobs. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf.
- Wladawsky-Berger, Irving. "The Future of Jobs: Lessons from History."Wall Street Journal 16 Oct. 2015.