The future of work 2020-2030: Where are the job opportunities for young people?

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The future of work 2020-2030: Where are the job opportunities for young people?

We live in confusing times, and that can make it harder to plan for the future. But there are some things we are certain about. We live in a post-Covid facing drastic environmental changes and rapid technological change.

Graphic showing 3 challenges facing workers over the next 10 years

These 3 big challenges - Covid-19, automation and the environmental crisis - will shape the future of work over the next 10 years.

In this article, we bring together the research to explore what this means for the careers prospects of Gen Z-ers between 2020 and 2030.

'Covid-19, automation, climate change - how will these shape job prospects for young people?'

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Covid-19: Job losses and declining industries

Covid-19 is transforming the world of work - changing workplace practices such as the prevalence of homeworking and leading to mass job losses across sectors.

According to a report by McKinsey, Covid-19 has put over a quarter (26%) of European jobs at risk. In the UK, every sector of the economy has been hit by the pandemic, with reports suggesting that the worst-hit industries have been hospitality (pubs and restaurants), culture (theatres), construction (housebuilders), manufacturing and cars.

This short documentary from The Economist looks at the possible long-term effects on the economy:

As explained in the video, it is lower-income jobs that are most at threat. McKinsey estimates that half of job losses are among those earning less than £10 per hour and are concentrated in the lowest-income subregions, including Blackpool, Stoke-on-Trent and Torbay. In absolute terms, the highest number of jobs at risk are in wholesale, retail and repair of vehicles at around 1.8 million or 41% of jobs. The highest proportion of jobs are at risk in accommodation and food services at around 1.2 million or 68% of jobs.

Graph: McKinsey 1 (see sources)

The future of some industries is uncertain – such as parts of the culture sector including the theatre and music industry. However, the pandemic is accelerating the trend towards automation in some sectors – meaning that many of the jobs lost will not return once the pandemic is over. Research by McKinsey shows that, across Europe, there is a big overlap in jobs at risk from Covid-19 and jobs at risk from automation. While 59 million jobs are at risk from Covid and 51 million from automation – the overlap represents 24 million jobs. In the UK, a higher proportion of retail activity was carried out online than in other European countries. While slightly fewer jobs were lost in absolute numbers, the pandemic has nevertheless hastened the trend towards digitisation. The graph and table below visualise the relationship between Covid-19 and automation.

Graph: McKinsey 2 (see sources)
Graph: McKinsey 2 (see sources)

Industry 4.0: Skills in an automated world

Experts say we are living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With the rise of automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics, all the signs suggest that the next decade will be one of rapid change.

Take a look at this video from US news outlet CNBC to learn more about the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

The impact on jobs will be that some skills will become redundant as they are taken over by machines, while demand for others rises.

According to McKinsey, 22% of workforce activities in Europe could be automated by 2030. However, research also shows that jobs are rarely entirely automated. Instead, machines tend to take over methodical tasks while workers’ time is reallocated to more complex functions that computers cannot do.

So what skills can we expect to be replaced by machines by 2030, compared with 2016?

  • Basic data input and processing will fall by 15%
  • Physical and manual skills will fall by 14% (at a quarter, they will still represent the largest category of workforce skills globally)

What skills will rise in demand (in Europe in 2030 compared with 2016)?

Technology skills will rise by 55%:

  • Demand for advanced IT and programming skills could rise by as much as 90%
  • Advanced data analysis and mathematics
  • Graphic showing 3 skillsets which will be in demand in 10 years' time
    Technology design
  • Engineering and maintenance
  • Scientific research and development

Social and emotional skills will rise by 22%:

Cognitive skills will rise by 14%

Some cognitive skills are expected to be increasingly automated, including advanced literacy and writing and quantitative and statistical skills.

This graph shows how specific skills will rise or fall in demand between 2016 and 2030:

Graph: McKinsey 3 (see sources)

Examples of jobs using these skillsets for which we can expect to see higher demand include:

  • IT professionals and programmers
  • Technology designers
  • Engineers
  • Advanced technology maintenance workers
  • Scientific researchers

Environmental and ecological breakdown: Threats and opportunities in the world of work

The environmental crisis is made up of two elements: climate breakdown and the biodiversity crisis.

Climate breakdown is the collapse of long-term patterns in climate due to the dangerous warming of the atmosphere. This is largely caused by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels including oil, coal and gas, which releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Climate breakdown makes extreme weather more likely and more severe, and also leads to rising sea-levels caused by the melting of the ice caps and other factors.

This short video from National Geographic explains what climate breakdown is. It is an American video and uses degrees Fahrenheit not Celsius - but it is the most accessible short video we could find:

The biodiversity crisis, simply put, is the loss of huge numbers of plants and animals due to humanity’s impact on the planet. Some are going extinct while others are simply becoming more scarce. The 2020 Living Planet Report revealed that there has been a 68% decline in the population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. Some scientists say that we are living through the sixth mass extinction. As well as being a tragedy for nature, it has severe implications for our species, since we rely on animals to pollenate plants and trees – which in turn produce food and oxygen. Ecosystems are so closely connected that impacts on one species will affect life across the planet.

In this short video from WWF International, Sir David Attenborough explains why the biodiversity crisis is as important as climate breakdown:

This emergency represents an existential threat to us all and we are reliant on the actions of governments around the world to protect our way of life. That includes jobs – with 1.2 billion jobs, or 40% of world employment, heavily reliant on natural processes in 2014 according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). However, if governments act with the urgency required, this crisis presents not only a threat but an opportunity for future employment.

According to the ILO, opportunities for jobs in 2030 fall into three categories:

1. Energy sustainability

A graphic listing 3 environmental jobs

In order to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown, the world must completely “decarbonise” by 2050. The UK government has enshrined this target in law – although many experts say that developed countries such as the UK must decarbonise much more swiftly than this.

To decarbonise our economy, we need to stop using fossil fuels. An alternative to fossil fuels is renewable energy such as wind and solar power. The transition to renewable energy creates huge potential for jobs growth all over the world. The UK already has the largest offshore wind capability of any country in the world and there is huge potential to expand into onshore wind.

The ILO estimates that decarbonisation could lead to the net creation of 18 million jobs globally (made up of 24 million jobs created and 6 million lost). Construction will create 6 million jobs, while a further 2.5 mllion will be created in renewables. This graph shows how the industry profile of a circular economy in 2030 would compare with that in 2016:

Graph: ILO

2. Circular economy

We currently inhabit a “linear economy” where goods are extracted, manufactured, used and discarded. This approach pollutes our world with waste, burns high volumes of greenhouse gases and uses up the limited resources our world has to offer. The circular economy, on the other hand, does what it says on the tin – it uses materials in a circular manner on the principle of produce-service-use-reuse.

The implementation of a circular economy globally could lead to the net creation of 6 million jobs (increase of 0.1%). Overall this will lead to 0.5 million new jobs in Europe, and increase the share of jobs taken up by women. This graph shows how the industry profile of a circular economy in 2030 would compare with that in 2016:

Graph: ILO

3. Agriculture

Agriculture currently has a hugely destructive impact on the environment. It is a major factor in the sixth mass extinction. Agriculture has to change rapidly to avoid the degradation of the natural world to an unsustainable level.

According to the ILO, a green economy would see conservation agriculture and organic agriculture replace traditional industrial-scale agriculture in a bid to protect nature. The mix of crops grown is also likely to shift as humans reduce their meat intake and move towards a more plant-rich diet. We are also seeing the emergency of novel agricultural techniques such as vertical farming in our cities.

As well as jobs in farming, this is likely to create jobs for plant scientists, biologists, agricultural entrepreneurs.

What do younger people care about?

Following the onset of the pandemic, Deloitte carried out a survey of Millennials and members of Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010, also known as Zoomers).

Continued homeworking after the pandemic

Both groups were keen to continue the current trend of homeworking after the outbreak has drawn to a close. One reason for this was a desire to achieve a better work/life balance. However, another was a preference to live outside the city, which may relate to concerns connected to finances, including rent, which respondents mentioned elsewhere in the survey. At the same time, respondents said they were keen receive training, education and skills development from their employers to help them work from home more effectively.

A desire to do social good

A graphic listing 3 jobs for social good

A high proportion of respondents said that they had taken steps to help their community during the pandemic. This suggests that industries and professions which prioritise social good are likely to appeal to the next generation of the workforce. There are signs that industry is moving this way with 78% of consumers wanting businesses to address social justice issues. There are over 471,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing 1.44 million people – and research shows that they typically outperform traditional businesses.

Protecting the environment

Climate change was a major source of concern for respondents. Although a large proportion felt we had hit the point of no return, a similar amount also believed there are reasons for optimism. This means that jobs relating to protecting the planet may be particularly appealing. This is also becoming a priority for many businesses, who see commercial benefits to addressing the climate emergency. At the end of 2019, 74% of UK CEOs revealed that their response to climate change could improve their business’ reputation.

What are the jobs of the future?

Building on all this research, we have created this list of 29 jobs which involve skills which are likely to be in greater demand in 2030 and which also fit into the broader trends we have explored in this article. We have also indicated where they have an environmental benefit, as this is likely to increase their demand and also appeal more to young people. Finally, we have highlighted jobs with a social purpose as this is also likely to appeal to many younger workers.

JOB

MAIN SKILL

IS IT AN ENVIRONMENTAL JOB?

DOES IT HAVE A SOCIAL PURPOSE?

AI training manager

Advanced IT and programming skills

 

 

App designer

Advanced IT and programming skills

 

 

Astrochemist

Scientific research and development

 

 

Augmented reality (AR) designer

Technology design

 

 

Big data specialist

Advanced data analysis and mathematics

 

 

Bioanalytical scientist

Scientific research and development

 

Yes

Biostatistician

Advanced data analysis and mathematics

 

Yes

Cloud engineer

Advanced IT and programming skills

 

 

DevOps engineer

Advanced IT and programming skills

 

 

Digital content producer

Creativity

 

 

Earth observation scientist

Scientific research and development

Yes

 

Global health educator

Critical thinking

 

Yes

Green building designer

Engineering and maintenance

Yes

Yes

Human-machine interaction designer

Advanced IT and programming skills

 

 

Immersive experience composer

Creativity

 

 

Information security analyst

Advanced IT and programming skills

 

 

Innovation professional

Creativity

 

 

Mental health counsellor

Complex information processing

 

Yes

New technology specialist

Technology design

 

 

People and culture specialist

Complex information processing

 

Yes

Planetary scientist

Scientific research and development

Yes

Yes

Renewable energy engineer

Engineering and maintenance

Yes

Yes

Social entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship

 

Yes

Space archaeologist

Initiative taking

 

 

Sustainability consultant

Complex information processing

Yes

Yes

Sustainable building designer

Technology design

Yes

Yes

Vlogger

Creativity

 

 

VR therapist

Complex information processing

 

Yes

Wind energy engineer

Engineering and maintenance

Yes

Yes

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Sources

McKinsey, Covid-19 in the United Kingdom: Assessing jobs at risk and the impact on people and places (McKinsey 1)

McKinsey, The future of work in Europe: Automation, workforce transitions, and the shifting geography of employment (McKinsey 2) 

McKinsey, Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce (McKinsey 3)

International Labour Organisation, The future of work in a changing natural environment: Climate change, degradation and sustainability (ILO)

The 2020 Deloitte Millennial Survey

How every sector of the UK economy was hit by coronavirus - but experts say the worst is over

WWF, Living Planet Report 2020

Images: Lead image background by evening_tao

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