What is the future of jobs? The answer to that question depends on who you ask, and in what context. The World Economic Forum has its point of view, which is explored in The 2018 Future of Jobs Survey. This original research set out to represent the current strategies, projections, and estimates of global business, with a focus on large multinational companies and more localized companies of significance due to their employee or revenue size.

The survey was distributed to relevant companies through extensive collaboration between the World Economic Forum and its constituents, amplified by regional survey partners. The survey collection process was conducted via an online questionnaire, with data collection spanning a nine-month period in 2018. In total, the report’s data set contains 313 unique responses by global companies, collectively representing more than 15 million employees in 12 industry clusters and 20 economies. This makes it one of the broadest reaching studies of its kind.

Some of the more compelling findings included:

  • Drivers of change: Four specific technological advances—ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology—are set to dominate the 2018–2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth. They are flanked by a range of socio-economic trends driving business opportunities in tandem with the spread of new technologies, such as national economic growth trajectories; expansion of education and the middle classes, in particular in developing economies; and the move towards a greener global economy through advances in new energy technologies.
  • Accelerated technology adoption: By 2022, according to the stated investment intentions of companies surveyed for this report, 85% of respondents are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big data analytics. Similarly, large proportions of companies are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of technologies such as the internet of things and app- and web-enabled markets and to make extensive use of cloud computing. Machine learning and augmented and virtual reality are poised to likewise receive considerable business investment.
  • Trends in robotization: While estimated use cases for humanoid robots appear to remain somewhat more limited over the 2018–2022 period under consideration in this report, collectively, a broader range of recent robotics technologies at or near commercialization—including stationary robots, non-humanoid land robots and fully automated aerial drones, in addition to machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence—are attracting significant business interest in adoption. Robot adoption rates diverge significantly across sectors, with 37% to 23% of companies planning this investment, depending on the industry.
  • Changing geography of production, distribution and value chains: By 2022, 59% of employers surveyed for this report expect that they will have significantly modified how they produce and distribute by changing the composition of their value chain and nearly half expect to have modified their geographical base of operations. When determining job location decisions, companies overwhelmingly prioritize the availability of skilled local talent as their foremost consideration, with 74% of respondents providing this factor as their key consideration.
  • Changing employment types: Nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their In addition, businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, with many respondents highlighting their intention to engage workers in a more flexible manner, utilizing remote staffing beyond physical offices and decentralization of operations.
  • A new human-machine frontier within existing tasks: Companies expect a significant shift on the frontier between humans and machines when it comes to existing work tasks between 2018 and In 2018, an average of 71% of total task hours across the 12 industries covered in the report are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022 this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans and 42% by machines. In 2018, in terms of total working hours, no work task was yet estimated to be predominantly performed by a machine or an algorithm.
  • A net positive outlook for jobs: About half of today’s core jobs—making up the bulk of employment across industries—will remain stable in the period up to One set of estimates indicates that 75 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, while 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms. These estimates represent two parallel and interconnected fronts of change in workforce transformations: 1) large-scale decline in some roles as tasks within these roles become automated or redundant, and 2) large-scale growth in new products and services—and associated new tasks and jobs— generated by the adoption of new technologies and other socio-economic developments such as the rise of middle classes in emerging economies and demographic shifts.

Stay tuned for more highlights next month. In the meantime, want to learn more about how you can prepare for the future of work? Check out the new book, Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future.

 

Alexandra Levit