• Pham Viet Hai

The future of jobs (part 1)/The Times They Are a-Changin'


As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin'

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin'

The Times They Are a-Changin - Bob Dylan

It is not a coincident that Bob Dylan famed song “The Times They Are a-Changin” popped up in my head when I was gathering ideas to write about the prospects of future jobs market. We are living in a face-paces society. And the changes are swift and dramatic.

No longer than fifteenth years ago, it was a common knowledge that people would hold onto one job throughout the entire duration of their careers. Nowadays, you can be suddenly dismissed and replaced by a piece of technology or a less-experienced but more technology-oriented employee. Technology is sipping in and revolutionizing every corner of industries. Traders in financial institutes are replaced by algorithms and automated trading. Social scientists are picking up coding and programing for their quantitative researches. Marketing operates over online and virtual platforms. Online classroom becomes common practice and businesses adopted work-at-home style over traditional workplace.

What we are currently experiencing and witnessing is dubbed as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. It is built upon the foundation of previous Industrial Revolution and “is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” [1]. The characteristics of The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring fourth critical impacts upon employments in all industries. Jobs we know and familiar with today may not exist in the next ten years, and jobs we do not even think exist may be popular and in high-demand in future.

While I would not consider myself as an economist right now, the working experience and education of the position stills prevails within me. And it intrigues me to explore the idea of looking at how the job markets are performing and changing in this uncertainly and rapidly changing era. This is written as a series of posts, and will cover both global and local job market.

[1] Klaus S. (2016, Jan 14), The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

1. Global Job Market

In order to reflect the changes that The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s wave of technological advancement bring forth upon the job market, it is necessary to have a multi-dimensional analysis, backed up by concrete evidences. Common reception is that the technological breakthroughs of The Fourth Industrial Revolution will rapidly shift the frontier between the manual and labor work tasks performed by humans to those performed by machines and algorithms. In response, global labor markets will transform to reflect those transitions. As such, I choose to look at the global job market under three dimensions: the number of future job seekers, the hired job positions and the expectations in the upcoming future.

The structural change in future job seekers can be recognized by the shifting in the number of bachelor degrees in educational institutions. American is chosen as a representative population as it still stands as the most advanced and industry-oriented education.

Bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in America
Bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in America

(Source: National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Digest of Education Statistics 2019 [Data file]. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d19/tables/dt19_322.10.asp)

The data was conferred from six major fields: Business, Computer sciences, Education, Engineering, Health Care and Social sciences. While Business and Social Sciences studies were popular choices, the number of students chose those fields slowly declined. Conversely, people have showed increasingly interested in technology related area such as computer sciences, engineering, health care and bio techs, which was continuously growing with double digits rate.

The changes in education landscape mirror the structural changes in businesses and society. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unravels, new and emerging technologies are quickly adopted by companies to attain better standards of efficiency in both production and consumption, dip into new markets, and compete for a global consumer base composed increasingly of digital natives. As such, job seekers are facing the challenge of acquiring new technologies and skill sets, which in turn is reflected by the increasing demand for technology-oriented majors.

The short-term outlook for job market surveyed by World Economic Forums revealed shifting demand from traditional positions to a more innovative, technical jobs. More specifically, surveyed firms expected the reduced demands in conventional white-collar positions which job procedures are routine-based and require minimal skill levels such as Data Entry, Accounting and Payroll Clerks, Secretaries, Auditors, Bank Tellers and Cashiers. Those entry level positions are expected to be very vulnerable to new technology advancements and exposed to replacement by automation and artificial intelligent.

High demand and decline roles by firm surveys

High demand and decline roles by firm surveys
High demand and decline roles by firm surveys

(Source: “The Future of Jobs Report 2018”, World Economic Forums)

By near future, firms expected to expand their business and work-force to new productivity-enhancing roles, as well as aggressively incorporate market and user analytics tools in business models to please their fast-changing consumer tastes. Thus, user and entity big data analytics, app- and web-enabled markets, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality were forecasted to be in high demands and short on human resources in the upcoming years. Such roles as AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Big Data Specialists, Process Automation Experts, Information Security Analysts that were once alien concepts have turned into normal norms in our ever-changing society.

The shifting trend is further concreted by past data of hired positions. Digital - marketing and talent-related professions prevail the list of positions that have increased hiring trends alongside marketing specialists, and software engineering such as Data Analysts, User Experience Designers and Human Resources Specialists.

Changing in hired positions across Asia and Pacific Region (2013-2017 period)

Changing in hired positions across Asia and Pacific Region (2013-2017 period)
Changing in hired positions across Asia and Pacific Region (2013-2017 period)

(Source: “The Future of Jobs Report 2018”- World Economic Forums and Linked)

The structural changes of society and labor market brought forth by The Fourth Industrial Revolution are enormous. Workforce transformations are no longer an aspect of the distant future. They are happening fast and at a fundamental level. On the management side, the shifting trends in the workforce will replace some workers while at the same time create new opportunities for others. On short term, it will may create a number of temporarily unemployment. If managed correctly, these transformations can bring out a new era of new jobs and better standard of life for all, but if mismanaged, it can pose significant risk of higher unemployment, widening skills gaps, inequality and polarization. To avoid such scenarios, it may be desirable that firms and governments take an active role in supporting in reshape and direct the labor market.

In next post, I would like to discuss about Vietnam labor market, in conjunction with the global mega trend. It will be about our current market’s structure, skill level, job demand and supply.