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Generation COVID and the future of employment: more digital, hybrid and versatile

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The world of employment is always changing. For International Workers’ Day, MAPFRE is analyzing certain factors related to demand for new job positions and the skillsets required in the current situation, which has been dominated by the rapid growth of trends due to the pandemic, in an effort to identify trends that can strengthen the company’s ability to adapt to the future.

The ILO (International Labor Organization) estimates that 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost due to the pandemic, equivalent to 255 million jobs, four times greater than during the financial crisis of 2009. On the labor market, the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse effects had a greater impact on women than on men; since the start of the pandemic, the employment rate fell by 5 percent for women and by 8.7 percent for young workers.

One of the groups most severely hit by the crisis is the group aptly called “Generation COVID” (under 25s). This group has been impacted by a precarious environment and limitations on their social life, with levels of isolation that the use of technology can only partially mitigate. Spain’s youth unemployment rate is close to 40 percent, triple that of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Europe, and more than double that of the European Union. According to the ILO, the crisis is hitting this group on three fronts. It is taking away their jobs, hindering their education—after the successive lockdowns, some will not return to the education system—and even their incorporation into the world of work.

MAPFRE’s commitment to employment and diversity is unequivocal — permanent contracts account for around 98 percent, and 46.3 percent of managerial vacancies have been filled by women. In terms of inclusion, people with disabilities account for 3.3 percent of the workforce, greater than the 2021 target of 3 percent.

According to the World Economic Forum’s report The future of Jobs 2020, in 2025, half of all workers will need to retrain. The consulting firm Gartner, in its article “9 Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19,” lists some features the future of work:

  1. Increase in remote working.
  2. Expanded data collection.
  3. Expanded employer role as social safety net.
  4. Contingent worker expansion in the new gig economy.
  5. Separation of critical skills and roles.
  6. Some will think work is more humanized, others will perceive it as dehumanizing.
  7. Focus will be placed on responding to the crisis, emergence of new top-tier employers.
  8. Resilience will be prioritized, as well as efficiency.
  9. Greater propensity to promote employee commitment, culture and value proposition.


Commitment and reskilling

Faced with the prospect of a people-focused employment and economic recovery, Deloitte, in another report, notes that future organizations will identify, attract and engage people with the right skills and experience to achieve their mission and purpose. Made up of many types of workers, they will also include partners and other key stakeholders from all over the world.

Continuous learning will allow workforces to be trained in specific skills and will in turn address a potential loss of talent.

Digitized and highly versatile profiles in artificial intelligence or the Cloud will continue to be the most highly sought after, according to the 2020 Emerging Jobs report from the professional social network LinkedIn. 

According to the McKinsey study, What 800 executives envision for the postpandemic workforce, COVID has put workplace safety and sanitation back on the table: 83 percent said they would hire more people for health and safety roles. Some 35 percent said they would need more workers skilled in automation, artificial intelligence and robotics, reflecting new requirements.

Likewise, according to the ILO in its latest report Nature hires, jointly prepared with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), future jobs are greener, related to renewable energy, the environment, sustainability and responsible consumption. The areas that are expected to generate the most jobs after the pandemic are ones that contribute to combating the climate emergency and the risk of natural disasters, increasing food and water security, as well as human health.

Five sought-after skills

The reality is that many future jobs are hard to imagine right now. This is why critical thinking and problem solving—recurring skills since the first WEF reports back in 2016—but also self-management, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility have become key skills that should be acquired now for tomorrow’s jobs.

The good news, according to WEF, is that it only takes a couple of months of training to learn some of them.


Digital workplace, independence and confidence

Many people have said goodbye to office work, but it is hard to celebrate the loss of physical contact. According to consulting firm Capgemini, three out of ten organizations worldwide will give 70 percent of their workforce the option to work remotely. For those who opt for a flexible approach of combining working from the office with remote working, Digital Workplace will contain—together with the company’s Intranet—everything the employee needs (applications, connections) for a stable base whether they’re in the office or at home.

Talent and young people value the trustworthiness and reputation of a brand when choosing a specific company to work for and, in turn, add to the value of the company. Mutual trust is taking center stage.

According to experts, companies will let employees work more independently and employees will opt for companies where they can grow and where they receive an emotional salary, with real flexibility and a good work-life balance.


A critical moment for mental health

Many of the young people who have taken their first steps in the job market, or even those who are approaching university age, have done so without the physical contact of peers and under financial stress. According to a recent study by Kantar, 27 percent of Millennials and Gen Zers admit that the pandemic has had a significant impact on their mental health.

Another analysis of AI at work, by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, shows that the pandemic’s impact on workers’ mental health varies by seniority, generation and location. Globally, the report estimates that, compared to previous generations, younger generations have struggled the most, with Gen Z and Millennials working harder, feeling more stressed and being more willing to turn to AI in seeking support (23 percent); they are also the group that feels the most tired.

Jobs of the future will have to tend to the well-being and work-life balance of employees.