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Jobs of the future: The WEF’s mixed predictions for a digital working world

25 Jan 2024

Many tech roles will be well-remunerated and location-agnostic by 2030, says the WEF. But not all jobs will survive the unstoppable rise of digital transformation.

Roles in AI, analytics, data, sustainability and education are the most likely to grow over the next few years, according to data from the World Economic Forum (WEF). The body conducted an in-depth study last May of the jobs with the most and least longevity.

As most of us know, AI skills are huge – and the WEF predicts that AI and machine learning jobs, in particular, will grow by 40pc by 2027, amounting to around 1m new jobs.

Besides AI and machine learning skills, there will be big demand for sustainability specialists, business intelligence analysts, information security analysts, fintech engineers, data scientists, robotics engineers and agricultural equipment operators over the next five years, according to the WEF.

Some roles will dwindle due to digital

Careers that are likely to dwindle in the future include data entry clerks, secretaries, bookkeepers and payroll clerks. Other studies have found that such admin-heavy roles are likely to slowly become obsolete due to automation and generative AI.

More recent WEF data from this month finds the digital ‘revolution’ is only amping up from here on out. The organisation’s The Rise of Global Digital Jobs report looked at some of the most lucrative jobs in the context of global digital markets.

First of all, the data says digital jobs are growing, which we might have guessed. By 2030, the WEF predicts there will be 90m digital jobs, with 54m of these being higher-wage positions. By contrast, the total figure of digital jobs at the moment is 73m, with 39m of these being higher-wage. (The WEF defines higher-wage jobs as an annual salary of more than $75,000).

It also hints that digitalisation’s tendency to bring higher wage roles will enhance the prosperity of populations in places with lower economic opportunities. This, the report says, is a side-effect of the pandemic’s shift to remote working which ushered in the notion of location-agnostic jobs for techies.

Will this continue into the future? That depends on how well employers leverage emerging tech such as the metaverse and generative AI. The former can be really helpful in upskilling workers, and many colleges in Ireland are using the metaverse to train learners remotely.

The WEF lists some of the high-wage digital jobs that it predicts can be done independent of location by 2030. Software development, information security analysis, network and computer systems admin, consultancy, telecoms management and post-primary computer science teaching all made the list. Many of these jobs are location-agnostic already, so it looks as though the WEF’s predictions are slowly coming true.

Risks and caveats

But, as many have warned, for tech’s status as a lucrative industry to remain – and improve – leaders need to cooperate and devise policies that help workers prepare themselves for an increasingly digital world. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned governments that the benefits AI can potentially offer workers may not be realised without adequate education and training measures in place.

Even the WEF itself is not unaware of the risks digital transformation poses. The day after it published its report on the future of digital jobs, it released a report looking at global risks, which included factors such as tech acceleration and the climate crisis.

The takeaway from all this data, is that, yes, the future of work is going to be digitally-driven and this will offer opportunities such as high salaries and remote working, but the positive outcome is also very dependent on how well policymakers and employers handle the breakneck speed of tech evolution.

As many have pointed out, workforces need to be supported appropriately by employers as they educate themselves about AI.

Writing recently for SiliconRepublic.com, ServiceNow’s Mark Cockerill referenced the 2023 WEF report, in the context of digital skills. “The WEF forecasts an unprecedented period of churn in the job market, with 25pc of businesses predicting job losses and 50pc predicting job growth.

“Workers around Ireland and the whole EMEA region now hope employers will provide opportunities to acquire the skills they need to shine in the future – with an emphasis on both digital and creative skills,” he said.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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