At the beginning of 2020, in the OpenMind book collection “Work in the Age of Data,” Rafael Doménech, Head of Economic Analysis at BBVA Research, and Javier Andrés, a Professor of Economics at the University of Valencia, reflected on how machines and algorithms were far from killing all jobs, but that they would kill some while creating new ones. The main fear back then was that jobs that could be replaced by technology would be destroyed at a faster rate than the new possible occupations created thanks to the age of data.
The human fear of losing jobs to machines is nothing new. At the beginning of the 19th century, English craftsmen were the protagonists of the Luddite movement, which protested that industrial looms threatened to replace their handicrafts with low-skilled machine operator jobs.
However, this fear of the unknown that was recognizable just a year ago has been replaced by an urgent situation one year later. In the words of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the COVID-19 pandemic “has triggered one of the worst jobs crises since the Great Depression.” In its 2020 Employment Outlook report, the organization warns that a job recovery is not expected until after 2021. It seems like too long of a wait for many people whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic. Right now, the new digital jobs generation promised by the Fourth Industrial revolution is more urgent than ever. Let it come, and let it come now.
Remote work, only accessible to some
The World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2020” states that as a result of the twin forces of the Fourth Industrial revolution and the COVID-19 recession, day-to-day digitization has leapt forward, with a large-scale shift to remote working and e-commerce, and a new marketplace for remote work.
Keep in mind that not all workers have experienced this change. According to this report, broadly speaking, in the context of the pandemic, employees have been segmented into three categories:
- Essential workers, who have continued to work in person during the pandemic, such as delivery personnel, carers and health workers, food shop workers, agricultural workers, and manufacturers of medical goods.
- Remote workers, who can work remotely and are likely to keep their jobs.
- Displaced workers, who have lost their jobs in the short term and potentially in the future, and who fall disproportionately into the sectors most negatively affected by the pandemic, such as restaurants or tourism.
All three groups have been affected by the unprecedented situation of recent months, from an increased risk of stress and work overload in some cases for essential workers, to problems of adaptation to their new routines for teleworkers. But, without a doubt, the most affected are those citizens who have lost their jobs and who face great job uncertainty in the short and medium term.
Metrics, keys to a rapid transition
The figures from the World Economic Forum’s report predict that by 2025, as a consequence of technological developments, 85 million jobs could disappear, while 97 million new ones may emerge adapted to the new paradigm. Therefore, the destruction of jobs can be offset by the creation of new opportunities. What is the key to making this transition as fast as possible?
The answer could be to carry out what they call a “good jobs strategy,” that is, for companies to work on measuring how they can create value through investment in human and social resources as a priority. People are at the center of all organizations and are the key to their success, and companies cannot prosper if they are harmful to the social fabric that surrounds them. However, without metrics that accurately reflect the value of investments, it is difficult to establish a correct strategy for training employees in new skills and digital skills.
Jobs of the future: safe bets
Predicting the future is always complex, and it is likely that ten years from now there will be demand for professions that don’t even have a name right now, but some experts have dared to make predictions with current data.
What can be mentioned are careers that are already a reality and that are currently in growing demand. Among them, DevOps engineers. DevOps practices is a concept derived from the combination of the terms “development” and “operations” that emphasizes the importance of joining the worlds of software development and IT Operations. Those who are skilled in this agile philosophical strategizing are becoming increasingly more appealing to employers. Other fields with an increase in demand are specialists in artificial intelligence and digital marketing, as well as specialized personnel in talent acquisition that meet the complex requirements of this new era.