How far can your skills take you? New research with the Inter-American Development Bank

Machines have been disrupting the labor force for centuries. Even the impact of today’s cutting-edge technologies, like self-driving cars, are not without precedents in the labor market: elevator operators are one early example of a profession replaced by a “self-driving” technology with the creation of the automatic elevator in 1900. Today, as the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, policymakers and individuals alike are preparing for the impacts of these shifts on the dynamics of the labor market and the future of employment.

To help individuals and policymakers worldwide prepare for the workplace of tomorrow, we worked with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to research and understand the occupational shifts taking place around the world, and how those shifts will impact both the skills that are currently in demand and those that are likely to be needed in the future. (You can read our full report, How Far Can Your Skills Take You?, here.)

Notably, our new analysis sheds light on skills transferability—the relationship between different occupations based on the skills they require—with the aim of helping workers in declining industries transition into occupations that share similar skill requirements, or jobs with related skills requirements that present a relatively easier path for upskilling.

Using LinkedIn’s unique data to analyze information from 10 of the G20 nations, we looked at the skills that individuals list on their LinkedIn profiles (explicit skills) as well as those extracted from member profiles and job descriptions (implicit skills). Together, these two sources provide us with insight into 50,000 different skills, categorized into 249 skill clusters.  

A comparison of LinkedIn members from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, India, Mexico, South Africa, the US and the UK, uncovered three trends that held true across economies: a growth in tech-intensive occupations; a decline in administrative roles (including a decline in basic tech support roles); and an increase in “human-centric” occupations like caretakers, entrepreneurs, and creative strategists.


High Tech, High Growth

Software developers—including web developers, software engineers, and other programmers—emerged as the fastest-growing occupations overall, reflecting an increased reliance on digital tools around the world. The growth of technology is not limited to computer science: occupations that require advanced digital skills outside of coding also showed growth, including social media specialists.  

Unsurprisingly, given the rise in tech-centric occupations, advanced digital skills are among the top two fastest-growing skills categories in almost every nation we studied. Tech skills like web design, data storage, app development, and human-computer interaction represented at least 9 of the 20 fastest growing skills in all countries except Australia and Brazil.


Figure 1: Fastest Growing Occupations Across Countries


Low Tech, No Growth

Despite these increases in jobs with advanced tech skills, the data indicate a dramatic gap between the trajectories of these cutting-edge tech occupations and lower-tech administrative roles. Of the five occupations that showed the largest declines, three were technology-focused: IT consultants, IT support specialists, and system administrators. While all three roles are related to technology, the skills needed for these occupations are more focused on hardware/support than on software development, requiring high levels of expertise in technical support, computer hardware, computer networking, and maintenance & repair.

Adding to this decline, demand for certain lower-tech skills also fell. Basic digital literacy—that is, fluency with things like word processing tools and email—showed the fastest decline compared to other skill groups in half of the countries analyzed. This trend, coupled with the one above, may indicate a shift in employer expectations from basic to advanced digital skills.


Figure 2: Fastest Declining Occupations Across Countries

More Human, More Opportunities

While automation may play a role in driving the decrease in administrative occupations, “human-centric” occupations—jobs that require creativity, social skills, caretaking, or complex problem solving—seem to be immune from this downward pressure.  Recruiters, marketing specialists, and business strategists all showed growth across the countries studied.

Entrepreneurship – which we measure by tracking the growth in founders and owners—was particularly high in Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico), as well as in South Africa, India, and Australia, with growth rates outpacing those of the United States, United Kingdom, and France. The US and European countries, conversely, saw faster growth in service industries like bartenders, food servers, and chefs. Caretaking professionals also fall into this “people-centric” category, including teachers, nurses, mental health professionals, and medical assistants.

When the G20 leaders gather in Argentina later this year, the Future of Work will be one of four main priorities for discussion. While the Future of Work can often seem like an abstract concept, the analysis from LinkedIn and the IDB is designed to give policymakers and individuals a more concrete, real-time understanding of what the future will actually look like: including changes in skill demands around the world, as well as a deeper understanding of the role of skills transferability in making transitioning between occupations either easier or harder. Hopefully, as IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno recently noted, this type of data can help policymakers make more informed decisions about policies and programs that respond to shifting labor market dynamics and create new pathways to economic opportunity.

Download the full report here: How Far Can Your Skills Take You?: Understanding Skill Demand Changes Due to Occupational Shifts and the Transferability of Workers across Occupations.

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