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Friend of Tortoise Exclusive

How do we prepare today for the labour market of tomorrow?

How do we prepare today for the labour market of tomorrow?

This event is exclusive to Friends of Tortoise

in partnership with Bank of America

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.

Thanks to new technology, an estimated 100 million workers will need to switch occupations by 2030. What can we know of the careers that will be available to children born in 2021 who are job seeking in 2041? Robots may replace human beings in increasingly complex and creative roles, but this shift will be matched by an increase in so-called pink and green collar jobs – in the care economy, clean energy and technology industry. What does this mean for the way we think about what is and isn’t considered ‘high value work’? How do we start preparing now for the labour market of tomorrow? 

Readout

How do we prepare for a world in which 65 per cent of school children today will grow up to have jobs that don’t currently exist? 

The future labour market will bring both benefits and costs – but most importantly – it will be characterised by change. By 2030, around 100 million workers will have to switch occupations. Addressing these seismic shifts – resulting from forces including the climate crisis, the switch to hybrid and online work, and the increased automation of many key labour processes – will take a considerable amount of effort on the part of both business and government. What is the best approach? 

To discuss this topic, and much more, Tortoise was joined by Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, and Felix Tran, Thematic Strategist at Bank of America.

Felix Tran, began by explaining the key findings of the “The Future of Work and How It Will Change Our Lives” report, which he co-wrote. It aims to dispel some of the scarier statistics that orbit the topic of labour transformation. Some of them paint a bleak picture of the threat facing workers in some sectors; the threat of redundancy and replacement. 

Felix mentioned findings by Oxford University in 2013 that suggested 35 per cent of jobs in the UK and 47 per cent of jobs in the US could be automated away in the next decade. This fact has generated a big sense of risk, but also of opportunity, with the recognition that people can be upskilled through training and education to expand their professional horizons and take on new opportunities in a fast-moving economy. 

This rapid change is part of a creative destruction cycle, Felix believes, in which technology is not just here to displace, but to enhance the condition of labourers and ultimately be a force for good. In their findings, Felix and his co-authors found that 12m net new jobs could be created through technology by 2025.

When the ATM was introduced in 1970, many people thought that they would replace bank tellers, though in the period that followed the number of bank tellers in the US actually rose. The ATM replaced a particular part of the banking process that was being done by humans, allowing those workers to move on to different jobs within the wider banking system; like relationship management and financial advice. The key to this replacement process was the retraining and upskilling of workers so that they could take on new challenges.

Lynda Gratton, a recognised expert in analysing future work trends, explained that, as the labour market starts really changing, we will see an even greater divide between jobs that are typically low-skilled and have a low threshold of training or education. Supporting the ambitions of workers who want to advance to higher-paid positions and acquire new skills is key to dampening the negative effects of labour automation. Opportunities to retrain should be equitably distributed and supported by government. 

Whilst 85m jobs will be eliminated by automation and robots by 2030, this will not happen evenly across all markets; jobs most at risk are retail sales personnel, fast food production workers. Those workers can be given the training and support they need to move up the skills and salary ladder, rather than down, or off the ladder completely.

editor and invited experts

Alexi Mostrous
Investigations Editor

Felix Tran
Thematic Strategist at Bank of America

Lynda Gratton
Professor of Management Practice at London Business School