Jobs of the future


Among the subjects under discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month were what the jobs market might look like in future and what types of skills will be in demand.

David Arkless, Executive Board Member, Manpower, USA, argued that the movement of jobs overseas is not the problem it is often made out to be.

"Can we please stop being insecure about offshoring?" he asked "The absolute numbers are tiny."

He was more concerned about a future shortage of vocational skills. "We need electricians, plumbers, infrastructure workers and higher-level production workers. We have to persuade children that in the future getting a vocational degree will be as important as getting an academic qualification."

But Ben J. Verwaayen, CEO of telecoms giant, BT, put his finger on another key issue:

"Something profound has happened over the past three years. For the first time in our history you don't need physical proximity to be successful. The worst we can do is deny the fact that there is massive change. In order to be a global company these days, you need a computer and a chair. Being global has nothing to do with size."

Elaine L. Chao, US Secretary of Labour observed: "Eighty percent of new jobs require some understanding of computers."

She also raised concerns the way benefit plans can reduce job mobility and gaps in the way that employers and government are dealing with an aging workforce.

Sir Digby Jones, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, was also worried by the aging workforce.

"In the developed world, we are going to have to work until we are 70, and develop flexible skills to do different types of jobs when we get older. And that will take political bravery."

He also argued that society must understand that the labour market cannot protect particular jobs any longer but only the idea of some sort of job, through reskilling and investment.

But we were particularly amused by the comment made by Clara Gaymard, Chairman of Invest in France Agency, France, who was asked why France now has a level of productivity higher than even the US.

"It is because we have happy workers who are not anxious about paying for their family's medical bills or education. And they have time to enjoy their private lives so when they are at work they are very focused," she said.

Or is the real reason for France's high level of productivity a by-product of the fact that the French labour market is so over-regulated that companies invest in technology or machinery – anything, in fact, to avoid taking on more staff?

World Economic Forum: Jobs of the Future and Creating Jobs for the Future