It’s 2030 and a generation of super-workers, reliant on medical, technological and physical enhancements is competing in borderless markets. A world where exceptional talent commands premium reward but where the number of workers in full-time permanent employment is it an all-time low.
This is a world with few rules, where specialists and niche profit-makers serve self-obsessed consumers and powerful affinity groups and where global corporates - some bigger than countries – coexist uneasily alongside small socially-responsible and environmentally-aware collectives.
This is no sci-fi movie script - it’s one of a series possible future scenarios contained in PwC’s latest report, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030, which surveyed attitudes to the future of work amongst 10,000 people across the UK, Germany, China, India and the US (including 2,000 respondents in the UK).
Looking to 2030, PwC paints a picture of a future shaped by shifts in global economic power, facing depleted fossil fuels, extreme weather, water scarcity and a growing global population containing an ageing workforce.
This, in turn, will create a landscape where digital platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) will underpin, define and shape and the competitive workplace and its inhabitants.
And that road to 2030 will be signposted by dramatic step-changes in AI. PwC says we are already exploiting assisted intelligence – like automating repetitive tasks; where we are close to breakthroughs in augmented intelligence – where humans and machines collaborate; and by 2030 this will culminate in a world of autonomous intelligence – where adaptive intelligent systems take over decision-making and where the very future of humans at work becomes questioned.
Faced by these possible changes, 62% of UK workers (less than the global figure of 74%), surveyed by PwC say they are ready to learn new skills or retain in order to remain employable with over half the UK group saying it’s their responsibility, rather than their employers, to upskill themselves.
Nevertheless, over a third (35%) of UK workers are worried about what the world holds for them - only 26% are confident about the future of work – and a mere 18% say they are ‘excited’ about the future.
Describing the growing role of technology and its potential to disrupt the current world of work Jon Andrews, head of technology and investment at PwC, said:
PwC’s research shows that workers are already aware that technology will change the skills that will be needed in the future. Only 35% of UK workers surveyed think they have all of the skills now that they’ll need for the rest of their career. However, 70% believe that technology can never replace the human mind and over three quarters (78%) believe that human skills will always be in demand.
The report warns that the sheer pace of change means the future can’t be predicted with accuracy. However, it also says that trends in human dynamics hint of a future where tensions between collectivism (fairness and equality) and individualism (‘me-first’) and integration (big business rules all) and fragmentation (small is powerful), are increasingly determining business trends.
These human tensions lead PwC to identify four possible ‘worlds of work’ that could become a reality by 2030:
Paul Terrington, PwC Northern Ireland regional chairman and head of UK regions, said neither business nor workers can avoid the inevitable:
The report, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030 can be downloaded below.