A quarter of 18–24 year-olds worldwide lost their jobs during the pandemic. Automation is the next threat

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 06/01/2022 | 17:03

Nearly a quarter of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 worldwide, or about 325 million people, have lost their jobs or incomes due to the pandemic, with automation being the next threat over the medium and long term, reveals the “Reaching YES. Addressing the youth employment and skilling challenge” report by PwC, UNICEF and Generation Unlimited.

 

The report notes that while the youth population grew by 30% between 1999 and 2019, the number in the labour force decreased by approximately 12%.

Of the employed young people, many are in the informal economy, working in jobs with low pay, dangerous working conditions and poor safety. They have been the most vulnerable to job losses during the pandemic. Of those in formal employment, many are overqualified for their current positions because their skills are not aligned with employers’ needs or due to limited availability of suitable positions.

According to the National Institute of Statistics, the employment rate of young people (15–24 years old) in Romania in the second quarter of 2021 was 22%, which is less than a third of the 62.4% employment rate of the general working-age population (15–64 years).

“The transition from school to the labour market is difficult for many young people either because they have trained for professions where there is too little on offer, their skills are not aligned with employers’ expectations or they do not want to pursue other learning programmes in the belief formal education is sufficient. In other words, there is a gap between what the real economy offers and the skills of the generations entering the labour market. That situation could become more complicated in the context of accelerating digitalisation, which will require increasingly sophisticated training, including not only technical skills but also creativity, communication, critical thinking and problem solving. Formal education providers and employers have a mission and a responsibility to help young people integrate into the labour market”, said Dinu Bumbăcea, Country Managing Partner PwC Romania.

Many positions traditionally filled by young people are increasingly at risk of being automated. Without educational programmes, falling employment rates and youth unemployment may have wider social implications through increased polarisation, erosion of institutional trust and social unrest. Even more worryingly, 63% of 15–24 year-olds worldwide do not have access to the internet at home to learn at least basic digital skills.

Getting young people the right skills for the labour market is a global issue and needs to be addressed at national and local levels, especially as companies are looking to increase productivity through automation

 

Over 40% of Romanian CEOs are interested in increasing productivity through automation

According to the CEO Survey 2021 report, 83% of global CEOs plan to increase investment in digitalisation. At the same time, 36% want to increase their companies’ productivity through technology and automation. That is more than double the share of CEOs who said that in 2016. In that context, creating a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce is at the top of their priorities.

The percentage is even higher in Romania, where more than 40% of CEOs are interested in adapting workforce strategy and increasing productivity through automation and technology to ensure their organisations’ competitiveness. About half of Romanian CEOs plan to increase their investment in digital transformation by more than 10%.

Moreover, Romanian CEOs say that the availability of key skills is a threat to the development of organisations, with 82% expressing concern or extreme concern regarding that issue. Thus, 39% of them are interested in providing the necessary skills to employees and increasing their ability to adapt to a dynamic and uncertain reality. Of the Romanian organisational leader respondents, 61% believe that the development of a skilled, educated and flexible workforce should be at the top of the government’s priority agenda.

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