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Upskilling Survey finds over 50% of workers in the North think their job will be obsolete in the next 5 years

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●        43% of workers in the North are ready to learn new skills or completely re-train in order to remain employable in the future.

●        31% of workers in the North feel positively about how the future world of work will affect them in contrast to 50% globally.

●        Yet 37% of people surveyed in the North are worried that automation is putting jobs at risk.

●        58% of workers across the North feel their current jobs could be made obsolete within the next five years due to advancing technology

●        More than one third of UK employees lack access to technology needed to upskill.

Women are more likely than men to be concerned about their future job prospects, a PwC survey of UK and global workers has found. The study also shows that over half (58%) of workers across the North feel their current jobs could be made obsolete within the next five years due to advancing technology. However, 43% strongly agree that learning a new skill or re-training will help them remain employable in the future.

PwC’s Upskilling Hopes and Fears 2021 study finds that fewer than one third (29%) of female workers in the UK feel positively about how the future world of work is likely to affect them compared to nearly half (45%) of men. More women (41%) also say they feel nervous about what the future holds for them than men (29%).

The findings follow a separate PwC study released at the start of March which showed that women are more likely to have been furloughed, as female-dominated industries such as accommodation and food services, and arts and entertainment were most affected by lockdowns.

Just over one third (37%) of women responding to the latest survey feel that technological advancements will improve their future job prospects compared to 44% of men. Women are more likely to favour doing a job that makes a societal difference over one that maximises their income. Women, though, are more positive about believing they will earn enough money to pay for further education or retraining.

According to the study, workers from ethnic minority backgrounds are also more likely to think their jobs may not exist in the near future than those who are white. More than one quarter (27%) of respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds believe it is likely their job could be gone within five years compared to 18% of white employees.  And nearly half (43%) of workers from ethnic minority backgrounds say they lack access to technology which in turn limits their opportunity to learn new skills - higher than the one third (33%) of white employees who responded in the same way.

Armoghan Mohammed, PwC Regional Chair for the North, said:

“We all share a responsibility to ensure our workforce is ready for the future, and to develop upskilling programmes to ensure we have the right digital capabilities and technologies to improve future opportunities and experiences at work for our people.

There is a risk that COVID moves us back on our journey towards equality across the different dimensions of diversity. In order to effect change we need to acknowledge there is further to go in protecting the future needs of our female and BAME colleagues.  Appropriate monitoring is not possible without high quality data. As such, a crucial first step to ensuring that future workforce planning is fair and equitable is to collect data on the diversity and understand the different needs of the current workforce.”

The study, which surveyed 32,500 people globally, broadly found UK workers are less likely to believe they will be impacted by technology than the worldwide average, with the majority believing that traditional jobs are not going away. This is despite previous PwC research showing that 30% of jobs were at risk of being lost to automation by the mid-2030s.

Nearly half (48%) of workers globally believe that traditional employment will not be around in the future, compared to 36% in the UK. Paradoxically, just 37% of UK workers feel positively about how the future world of work will affect them in contrast to 50% globally. This is despite a greater percentage 41% in the UK feeling that technological advances could improve their job prospects rather than impede them.

The study suggests concerns about future income and access to new technology could provide barriers to upskilling the UK workforce. More than one third (35%) of UK workers say they lack access to the technology, which limits their opportunity to develop new skills. And nearly half (44%) believe they will not earn enough money to pay for further education or retraining - this rises to 50% among 18-34 year olds. One in five people surveyed say they still do not have the digital skills needed to carry out their current jobs. While 62% of UK workers say they are ready to learn new skills or retrain completely in order to remain employable, this is below the global average of 77%.

Armoghan Mohammed, PwC Regional Chair for the North, added:

“Work will undoubtedly look different in the future, and create new opportunities. If we look at the introduction of disruptive technologies in the past, they have changed the way we work, and the skills we require, rather than necessarily reducing overall employment. This year we have recruited a record number of graduates and school leavers  in the North (195) and remain confident about the future.”

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