Who is first (and last) in the race to build a workforce fit for the future?

worker

(Claudio Hirschberger, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emily Glassberg Sands, Senior Director of Data Science, Coursera & Vinod Bakthavachalam, Senior Data Scientist, Coursera


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming the world of work. Technology is advancing faster than humans, disrupting both jobs and the skills needed to compete. Research by McKinsey suggests that globally about half of the jobs performed by humans today will be disrupted by automation, and a survey of business leaders by the World Economic Forum suggests that 42% of the core job skills required today are set to change substantially by 2022.

Amid these disruptions, business leaders ultimately project a potential net-positive outlook for jobs if workers can be reskilled and upskilled into emerging fields such as data science. Finding ways to do so will be essential for governments, companies and individuals looking to succeed in the changing economy.

Drawing on a rich database of over 40 million learners, the Coursera Global Skills Index benchmarked 60 countries and 10 major industries across the essential skills of business, technology and data science. (These three domains are not only significant economic and innovation drivers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; they also feed into some of the most in-demand careers.)

Key insights on the global rankings:

● The world is falling behind in critical skills. Two-thirds of the world’s population belongs to countries that are behind or close to behind in skill performance in at least one domain. Countries with developing economies and with less to invest in education see larger skill deficiencies, with 90% lagging or emerging.

● GDP and automation risk correlate with a country’s skills proficiency. A country’s rank across business, technology and data science is negatively correlated with per-capita GDP at -0.75 and positively correlated with automation risk at 0.45 (as estimated by the McKinsey Global Institute). This means that more skilled countries show better economic performance and lower risk of labour market disruption from automation.

 How does a country's skill index correlate with its GDP and automation risk?

How does a country’s skill index correlate with its GDP and automation risk?
Image: Mckinsey/World Bank

● Europe is highly proficient in critical skills. Institutional investment in education has led to successful results in Europe, where countries like Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands consistently rank as cutting-edge across all three domains.

Skills performance in data science across Europe is largely cutting-edge

Skills performance in data science across Europe is largely cutting-edge
Image: Coursera’s Global Skills Index

● Some global leaders surprise with mediocre performance. Known as a business leader for innovation, the US hovers around the middle and is not cutting edge in any of the three domains. Within the US, skill proficiency is also distributed non-uniformly; while the country’s west is ahead of other regions in technology and data science, the Midwest shines in business.

● Regional skills inequality is pervasive. Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America all see high skill inequality, consistent with the vast economic and cultural diversity that characterizes each region. In Latin America, for example, Argentina’s top ranking in technology is in stark contrast to Mexico’s and Colombia’s lower-tier performance.

Key insights on 10 industries:

The Index ranks 10 industries in key business, technology, and data science skills

The Index ranks 10 industries in key business, technology, and data science skills

● Technology industry professionals are savvy in their core domains but lack strong business skills. Although top-ranked in data science and technology, the industry slips to fifth place in business among the 10 industries in our analysis.

● Manufacturing shows skills resilience in the digital era. Manufacturing is the top-ranked industry for both business and technology, and demonstrates an aptitude for tackling change successfully.

● Telecommunications consistently ranks near the top. Telecommunications is the only industry to rank consistently in the top three across business, technology, and data Science.

● Finance surprises with below-average skills performance. Despite its pursuit of digital transformation, finance ranks second-last in business and data science, and hovers near the middle in technology.

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