China continues to report robust urban job growth that outpaces growth in the country’s labor force—despite a slowdown in economic expansion. By contrast, employment in India grew by only 1.4% per year from 2000 through 2016—despite a compound annual growth rate of 7.2% for the country’s GDP. And in some countries, including Germany and the US, millions of skilled positions remain vacant while millions of workers continue to search for work. Economists have hypothesized that this mixed jobs picture is a result of skills mismatches, changing expectations of the workforce, and mobility limitations.
The strategies for generating jobs and prosperity in the past are no longer sufficient to deliver inclusive prosperity to economies around the world. The already significant impact of digital technologies and rising economic nationalism is further magnified by profound societal changes as the world’s population becomes even more connected, more mobile, and more aware of global trends. At BCG, we call the confluence of these megatrends the new globalization.
Amidst such change, job creation strategies that rely on growing world trade in physical goods and cross-border capital investment will be less successful than they have been in the past. Nations will need to devote more attention and resources to increasing employment by promoting digitally enabled services, nurturing local expertise, enabling small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) to participate in global value chains, digitally empowering the self-employed, and boosting personal consumption.
Countries can create high-paying knowledge jobs by identifying the shifting nature of skill needs and promoting the development of such centers of expertise within their borders. They can support the development of globally competitive knowledge ecosystems by boosting investments in higher education and training for highly skilled professionals in the service sector. Countries can also support investment in R&D centers and global corporate hubs for data analytics.
As advanced manufacturing technologies, e-commerce, and artificial-intelligence software replace human beings in traditional jobs in factory, retail, and back-office work, significant numbers of workers are being uprooted. Experienced and older workers will therefore need access to retraining programs that are geared to their needs. Traditional curricula and teaching methods will have to be replaced with skills training, short-term “microlearning,” and experience-based content curation. Continuous learning should be a national priority; companies, educational institutions, and government agencies should collaborate to identify rapidly changing skill needs and offer programs to produce workers who are employable in the new global environment. Government services will need to provide licensing and certification platforms to enable the authentication of skills and ensure that they are portable from one employer to the next. Managing the transition of workers to the new types of jobs created will not be a trivial endeavor. But the effort will be necessary to bridge the gap between the available skills and those that will be needed in the new globalization.