The world of work is changing. Artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics will make this shift as significant as the mechanization in prior generations of agriculture and manufacturing. While some jobs will be lost, and many others created, almost all will change. Demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will rise by 2030. How will workers and organizations adapt?
The need for some skills, such as technological as well as social and emotional skills, will rise, even as the demand for others, including physical and manual skills, will fall. These changes will require workers everywhere to deepen their existing skill sets or acquire new ones. Companies, too, will need to rethink how work is organized within their organizations. How will demand for workforce skills change with automation? Over the next ten to 15 years, the adoption of automation and AI technologies will transform the workplace as people increasingly interact with ever-smarter machines. These technologies, and that human-machine interaction, will bring numerous benefits in the form of higher productivity, GDP growth, improved corporate performance, and new prosperity, but they will also change the skills required of human workers.
To measure skill shifts from automation and AI, we modeled skill shifts going forward to 2030—and found that they accelerated. While the demand for technological skills has been growing since 2002, it will gather pace in the 2016 to 2030 period. The increase in the need for social and emotional skills will similarly accelerate. By contrast, the need for both basic cognitive skills and physical and manual skills will decline. All technological skills, both advanced and basic, will see a substantial growth in demand. Advanced technologies require people who understand how they work and can innovate, develop, and adapt them. Our research suggests that through 2030, the time spent using advanced technological skills will increase by 50 percent in the United States and by 41 percent in Europe. We expect the fastest rise in the need for advanced IT and programming skills, which could grow as much as 90 percent between 2016 and 2030. People with these skills will inevitably be a minority. However, there is also a significant need for everyone to develop basic digital skills for the new age of automation. We find that among 25 skills we analyzed, basic digital skills are the second-fastest-growing category, increasing by 69 percent in the United States and by 65 percent in Europe. The need for finely tuned social and emotional skills will rapidly grow. Accompanying the adoption of advanced technologies into the workplace will be an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills—skills that machines are a long way from mastering. In aggregate, between 2016 and 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26 percent in the United States and by 22 percent in Europe. While some of these skills, such as empathy, are innate, others, such as advanced communication, can be honed and taught. The rise in demand for entrepreneurship and initiative taking will be the fastest growing in this category, with a 33 percent increase in the United States and a 32 percent rise in Europe. The need for leadership and managing others will also grow strongly.