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News article5 March 2020European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion3 min read

The future of work: Legal, social and cultural professions

The Skills Forecast from Cedefop allows us to imagine how the world of work might look in 10 years time by forecasting future employment trends. In our new series of articles, we look at the potential challenges and changes facing certain professions

The future of work: Legal, social and cultural professions

The first group of occupations under investigation are legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals. This covers people working in the fields of law, social sciences, religion, arts and entertainment. Specific jobs include lawyers, librarians, curators, economists, journalists, priests, community workers, photographers and sports coaches.

Key facts

  • Employment growth in legal, social and cultural occupations is expected to be around 29% between 2018 and 2030.
  • 6.4 million people are predicted to leave jobs in the sector between 2018 and 2030, leading to 9.7 million job openings that will need to be filled in order to meet the growth in demand.
  • Creativity and resolution, autonomy, and the ability to gather and evaluate information are the most important tasks and skills for employees in this field.
  • Employees tend to be highly qualified and this is not expected to change by 2030.
  • Many legal, social and cultural jobs are dependent on public funding.

Tasks and skills

The key tasks and skills are listed below in a basic order of overall importance:

  • Creativity and resolution
  • Autonomy
  • Gather and evaluate information
  • Teamwork
  • Service and attend
  • Literacy
  • Sell and influence
  • Use of ICT
  • Teach, train and coach
  • Routine
  • Manage and coordinate
  • Numeracy
  • Dexterity
  • Strength
  • Use of machine

What are the trends for the future?

  • An estimated 3.3 million additional jobs will be created in these sectors between 2018 and 2030.
  • Growth will be lower for legal, social and cultural professionals (17%) than for associate professionals (42%). (However, it’s important to note that low sample sizes in many countries means that these percentages should be treated with caution).
  • It is likely that legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals will become increasingly highly qualified.
  • Between 2018 and 2030, the percentage of professionals and associate professionals in the field who hold high-level qualifications is expected to increase from 65% to 69%.

Which drivers of change will affect their skills?

A wide variety of jobs fall under the heading of ‘legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals’, and so the way in which these jobs are affected by drivers of change will vary. However, there are some overarching patterns that are predicted for the 2018-2030 period:

  • Technological advancements: Increased digitalisation, automation and ICT use mean that employees will be required to develop different skills and adapt to different work tasks.
  • Restricted public funding: Many jobs – particularly in the public services, arts and entertainment areas – are reliant on public funding. As public budgets will continue to be constrained, the employment prospects of these jobs will be affected.
  • Demographic change: The ageing population in the EU is likely to create greater demand for social care professionals, but these jobs are also likely to change as a result of budget constraints and new technologies.
  • Globalisation: Increasing globalisation will see greater demand for workers who can speak more than one language. Certain roles may also find themselves dealing with a greater level of cross-border work.
  • Environmental regulation: Increasing awareness of environmental issues and the need for environmental protection will create new areas of regulation and also a demand for skills that will allow people to reduce their carbon footprints.
  • Increasing automation: Automation is expected to have a significant impact on occupations with tasks that can be automated, and that include limited communication, collaboration and critical thinking. Legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals is an occupation group that is at very low risk of automation.

How can these skills needs be met?

Many professional occupations in this group are regulated and the relevant professional bodies have a role to play in ensuring that individuals are appropriately skilled in their jobs (e.g. by specifying the specific skills required by workers in certain professions). There are various networks in place that allow good practice to be shared between professionals and associate professionals (e.g. European Social Network).

Ensuring the continuous professional development of existing workers is a common challenge. Depending on the specific sub-occupation, the challenge is greater for professionals that are largely self-employed (e.g. lawyers) or freelancers (e.g. journalists).


Related links:

Skills Forecast

The future of work: Legal, social and cultural professions


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