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EURES (EURopean Employment Services)
News article10 January 2020European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion3 min read

Preparing for the future of skills

Technological advances such as automation, artificial intelligence and robotics are having a profound impact on the workplaces of today and the future. Skills needs are changing, and both the EU and national governments have responded.

Preparing for the future of skills

To gain an insight into people’s thoughts about how the world of work is changing, Deloitte recently undertook a European Workforce Survey. The 15-month study surveyed more than 15,000 people across 10 European countries. We’ve summarised the key findings here.

The majority of workers see the impact of technological change as positive

Deloitte found that the workers are generally positive about the impact of technological change on skills:

  • 51% of workers believe that in 10 years, automation will improve the quality of their work;
  • 50% believe that automation gives them the opportunity to develop new skills;
  • 48% feel that automation will make them more productive;
  • Only 24% believe that automation will make their job redundant;
  • Only 26% say that automation will reduce their job security.

When education level is taken into account, workers with higher levels are more positive about the impact of technology, while workers with lower levels have a more negative view.

The majority of workers feel prepared for the future

Almost 90% of workers believe that they are ‘prepared to some extent’ or ‘very prepared’ for the future.

In terms of proficiency in the main skills areas:

  • 52% feel that they are already proficient in advanced IT skills (with 23% stating that they would need to improve their existing skills);
  • 45% already have a high level of technical knowledge (with 20% needing to improve their existing skills);
  • 38% already have a high level of learning skills (with 19% needing to improve their existing skills).

Workers also see themselves as more prepared for the developments brought on by emerging technologies than other actors:

  • 26% believe that they are very prepared;
  • 22% believe that their employer is very prepared;
  • 19% believe that their sector is very prepared;
  • 14% believe that their government/political institutions are very prepared.

The majority of workers believe that policy measures should focus on education and training

When asked about the different measures that the government might initiate, workers attach the greatest priority to education and training:

  • 52% of workers believe that policy measures should prioritise improving the availability of vocational training;
  • 52% feel that measures should prioritise improving secondary education;
  • 46% believe that measures should prioritise improving access to new technology;
  • 42% state that measures should prioritise improving university education;
  • Only 21% believe that measures should prioritise restricting the use of technologies that put jobs at risk.

Looking at educational level and those workers with lower levels of education are more likely to support a restriction on new technologies.

Key conclusions and recommendations

  • The majority of workers are ready to embrace the potential of technology. This is contrary to conventional wisdom that workers are afraid of, and resistant to, technological change. Deloitte recommends that policymakers should find a way to involve workers in the transition process, and that public authorities should focus on developing a positive narrative around the digital revolution (e.g. the potential of technology to create jobs).
  • Low-skilled workers risk being left behind unless appropriate action is taken. Employees with a high level of educational attainment are more optimistic about the future of work than those with a lower level. Deloitte recommends that governments should take action to ensure that everyone is aware of and prepared for the realities of Industry 4.0, particularly by using tailored policy measures to help those who are at the highest risk of being left behind.
  • Workers expect the government to set an example and provide an overarching framework. The fact that a high percentage of workers feel they are prepared for the future suggests that some may be underestimating the impact of future changes and that there is a general lack of awareness about the need for upskilling and reskilling. Deloitte recommends that governments and public authorities should provide information to workers and set a positive example by adopting new technologies.
  • Governments should provide the right environment for stakeholders to address skills gaps. While workers believe that education and training policies should be prioritised, they also feel that providing training is largely the responsibility of employers rather than public authorities. Deloitte recommends that companies should lead the technological transition by instituting a learning culture and that governments should invest in VET and lifelong learning.

More information about the European Workforce Survey 2019 and Deloitte’s findings is available on the Deloitte Insights website.


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