What does the future of work look like?
Before the pandemic, the conversation around the future of work was centred around how technology would replace many jobs and how work forces would need to be creative to shape new relevant roles.
When the pandemic hit, it transformed people’s relationships to work overnight. Now, the conversation is more focused on the workforce quickly mastering remote technologies, becoming flexible, and more entrepreneurial. According to The future of work in South Africa report, digitisation could result in a net gain of more than 1m jobs in South Africa by 2030!
What does this mean for young people looking to join the workforce in the next few years?
There was already a need pre-pandemic for young people joining the workforce to understand technology: why it was made, how it was designed, and what applications it has on the world around us.
Since the national and global lockdowns began, the work from home situation means that employee independence is expected, and communication within the team is key. The concept of office-based working will not become obsolete but using tech tools to get the job done will be here to stay post-pandemic.
Anyone working in this modern-day setting is now expected to be independent, adaptable, communicative, entrepreneurial, and resourceful with new technologies. Young people should get a head start if they want to stand out in a competitive space.
Jobs lost versus jobs gained
There is a public debate about automation that tends to focus on fears that technologies (naming: AI., machine learning and robotics) will destroy more jobs than they create. However, research suggests that, while new machines will disrupt the world of work, overall, it will create more new jobs than those it destroys.
A glance at history shows that technology has created large shifts in employment, but the increased productivity it ushers in generally creates many more jobs. In total, South Africa has the potential to create up to 4.5 million new jobs across many sectors as a result of productivity improvements, strategic policy implementation and the evolution of technology.
It is estimated that 570,000 new jobs can be created in the healthcare and social-assistance sector, and more than 260,000 jobs in construction, a sector that is traditionally hands-on.
The future is discontinuous, disruptive and different
The digital age has advanced the speed of change, impacting all industries and revolutionising life as we know it. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and digital manufacturing are leading a technological revolution, reengineering business models and ways of thinking.
This transformation is rapidly ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These are the competing forces changing the world we are living in:
- Blockchain’s impact on digital identity;
- Augmented and virtual reality’s ability to elevate ‘experience’ to a new dimension; and
- Quantum technology’s potential to intensify such trends.
These breakthroughs are not only changing the nature of work, but the fundamentals of business, by disrupting day-to-day activities.
The Future of Jobs 2020 report provided insight into the labour dynamics in South Africa and highlights that process automation specialists, data analysts and scientists, and social psychologists will see a big rise in demand.
Other professions which are set for growth are management and organisation analysts, business development professionals, and big data specialists. Fields which will be negatively affected are accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks, and client information and customer service workers.
The future of work is being shaped today by two powerful forces: the first being the growing adoption of artificial intelligence in the workplace and the second, expansion of the workforce to include both on- and off-balance-sheet talent. By taking a head-start and learning about programming and artificial intelligence there is no doubt that children and young adults will play a significant part in this global shift in careers.