Future Of Work: Workers Are Optimistic About The Future, But Concerns Remain

Future Of Work: Workers Are Optimistic About The Future, But Concerns Remain
Confidence about the future of work is growing, but significant concerns remain, according to a new PwC report.
  • 50% of workers are excited or confident about the future, according to a recent PwC report. 
  • However, the report identified some “concerning undercurrents”, including threats to job security and discrimination at work. 
  • Positively, workers are eager and willing to embrace new technologies and learn new skills, to prepare for the future of work. 

After a year of work that was completely disrupted, it’s refreshing to find that 50% of workers are excited or confident about the future, according to a recent PwC report. While the coronavirus brought about many challenges for workers worldwide, it also served to prove that workers are ready to meet the challenges of automation and change.  

Hopes and Fears 2021” explores workers’ sentiment in a few key areas. While people revealed a mostly optimistic story, the report also identified some “concerning undercurrents” about the future of work. 

Key Findings 

  • 50% are excited or confident about the future. 
  • 39% think their job will be obsolete within 5 years. 
  • 72% want a mix of remote and in-person working. 
  • 50% have been held back by discrimination at work. 

Job Security 

Alongside rapid advances in technology, a lot of the conversation has been focused on potential job losses at the hand of automation. In fact, 60% of workers are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk and 39% believe their job will be obsolete in 5 years.    

However, while some jobs — mostly manual process — are likely to be delegated to technology, technology will also create new opportunities for workers and in some cases enable them to better focus on high-value tasks.  

Job security fears stem not only from advances in technology, but also from changes in how companies hire and employ workers. 

PwC’s report found that: 

  • 48% believe traditional employment won’t be around in the future, and that we’ll sell our skills on a short-term basis to those who need them.  
  • 56% think few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future.  

A 2019 report argued that automation would enable the gig economy, making it easier for companies to connect with gig workers that can deliver specific competencies and tasks. PwC’s 2021 report confirms that the way people will work in the future will be much more focused on projects and tasks.  

While this represents a threat to job security, it also poses an opportunity for growth.  

“Employees across every sector will need to acquire new skills that enable them to think and work in different ways.” 

Workers Want to Reskill 

Not only do they want to reskill, but many have also already proven that they can: 40% of workers successfully improved their digital skills during the pandemic. 

More importantly, PwC’s report found workers are eager and willing to learn new skills.  

  • 77% are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. 
  • 74% see training as a matter of personal responsibility.   
  • 80% are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace. 

Suggested Reading: Future of Work: Should Your Organization Offer and Pay for Retraining Opportunities? 

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    The above is great news for organizations; as experts predict there will be a global talent shortage of 85 million people by 2030. Similarly, an Oxford Economics and SAP report found that lack of skilled talent was already a major impediment to workforce goals of the future.  

    Having employees that are willing to reskill and fully retrain themselves can aid companies in ensuring the have skilled talent now and in the future, which can give them a competitive edge as they navigate and incorporate new technologies.  

    Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. PwC’s report also found that: 

    • 46% of people with postgraduate degrees say their employer gives them opportunities to improve their digital skills, but just 28% of people with school-leaver qualifications say the same.   
    • Younger people are twice as likely as older people to get opportunities to improve skills.  
    • People in cities are 1.5 times as likely as people in towns to get opportunities to improve skills. 

    The above shows that there are “disparities in access to training”. This is especially worrisome as “Those who most need digital skills are still the least likely to get them and, if this trend continues, we risk widening the digital divide.” 

    Discrimination is Still an Issue at Work 

    • 50% of workers say they’ve faced discrimination at work, which led to them missing out on career advancement or training.   
    • 22% were passed over because of their age — with younger workers just as likely as older people to be affected.  
    • 13% report missing out on opportunities as a result of ethnicity.  
    • 14% of workers have experienced discrimination on the grounds of gender, with women twice as likely to report gender discrimination as men.  
    • 13% report discrimination on the basis of social class or background. 

    This issue is further compounded by effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Studies have shown that the pandemic reversed progress toward gender equality in the workplace; women were much more likely to leave their jobs while working from home in order to take care of kids or the elderly.  

    Companies need to make diversity and inclusion part of the company DNA. Not only is it morally and ethically right, but it is also good for business; diversity can drive innovation and improve business outcomes.   

    Company Purpose Matters, But Not at Any Price 

    Workers are increasingly searching for jobs that have a sense of purpose; they want the work that they do to contribute to something larger and more meaningful.   

    • 75% of respondents say they want to work for an organisation that will make a positive contribution to society. 

    However, purpose isn’t everything, and PwC found that despite the fact that people want a purpose at work, they also prioritize their income.  

    • If forced to choose, 54% say they’d choose to maximise income while 46% say they’d choose a job that makes a difference over more money.  
    • 57% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 would choose to maximise their income. 

    If workers aren’t concerned about money alone, companies shouldn’t be either. But that doesn’t mean that company purpose should overshadow offering competitive and fair salaries. 

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