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A Majority of the Global Workforce Is Ready to Shift Jobs and Develop Skills in Response to Globalization and Technology Changes

DÜSSELDORF, Germany -- A majority of people worldwide believe that global megatrends greatly affect their jobs, a belief that leads 65% to devote significant time each year to refining their skills and 67% to say that they are willing to reskill for a different job role, according to a new study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network.

A report based on the study, Decoding Global Trends in Upskilling and Reskilling, is being released today as part of the ongoing Decoding Global Talent series from BCG (one of the world's leading management consultancies) and The Network (a global alliance of more than 50 leading recruitment websites).

As part of the study, BCG and The Network polled 366,000 people in 197 countries to assess their awareness of how work is changing and their willingness to change along with it by learning new skills for their current position, known as upskilling, or by training on new skills for a completely different job, or reskilling. Respondents also shared how they prefer to learn and what skills they believe will be important in the future.

Change Is Coming, and People Are Willing to Upskill and Reskill to Be Ready

Across the globe, people are aware of how work is changing, with an average of 61% saying that they believe their current jobs will be greatly affected by megatrends, specifically technology changes such as automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics and globalization, including trade and outsourcing. Respondents who feel the most affected by megatrends come from several African countries, Japan, and some Mediterranean countries. Respondents who feel the least affected live in some Central American countries, the UK, and China.

Attitudes toward megatrends appear to have a bearing on work-related learning, with 65% of people worldwide saying they devote a significant amount of time each year to training on new skills to stay relevant in their jobs. However, substantial geographical differences exist in the amount of time that people spend on skill building

Respondents in China, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya lead the way in time devoted to learning. By contrast, respondents in Western Europe and North America don't invest as much time in developing their skills; Germany, France, UK, Canada, and US are some of the more notable countries where residents are less willing to spend significant time on learning.

"The geographic differences in how much time people spend on learning are striking," said Rainer Strack, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. "In Germany, only 38% of respondents spend a few weeks or more per year developing their skills, whereas in China, the number is more than 80%. Companies and governments in countries where people are less willing to learn need to take a more active role to address this challenge and support continuous learning for their workforces."

In addition to upskilling for a current job, 67% of respondents worldwide are open to reskilling for a new job under any circumstances, and 29% would reskill if they encountered serious roadblocks in a job search. Only 3% would completely refuse to reskill to make themselves more attractive for a new job. As with upskilling, willingness to reskill varies by region. Respondents in Latin American countries such as Mexico and Columbia are among the readiest to pick up skills in order to switch jobs, while respondents in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Germany, and Russia, are among the least willing.

"Both upskilling and reskilling are important ways to prepare for job changes, and we have seen some differences in how people apply these techniques," said Pierre Antebi, managing director of The Network and a coauthor of the report. "For example, people in services, administration, and manufacturing jobs are the most open to developing skills to switch jobs. On the other hand, respondents in high-skilled job roles like analytics, IT, and science are less open to reskilling for a new job but spend a lot of time developing skills to be better at their current field."

People Prefer Self-Directed Learning
According to the report, people prefer to learn new job skills on the job, on their own, and through online classes and mobile apps rather than through more traditional methods such as conferences and government-run programs.

To excel in the future, people place the greatest importance on having solid communication and analytical skills, followed by leadership and complex problem-solving skills.

Companies and governments should promote skill-building opportunities to help people prepare for the future and to avoid a two-tiered workforce in which some workers are ready for change and others are not. In addition, individuals must take charge of their own skills development to remain competitive in a fast-changing labor market, the report concludes.