PwC Survey: COVID’s Accelerated Digital Upskilling, But Key Groups Still Miss Out

PwC Survey: COVID’s Accelerated Digital Upskilling, But Key Groups Still Miss Out

A new study by PwC has found 40 per cent of workers say their digital skills have improved during the lockdown but data shows unequal access to career and training opportunities.

The study involved responses from 32,500 respondents in 19 countries. The key takeouts included:

  • Two in five believe their job will be obsolete within five years
  • Half of the global workforce report missing out on career opportunities due to bias
  • Training opportunities focused on those who already have high levels of skills
  • Younger people report being more focused on maximising income than ‘making a difference’
  • Only one in 10 of those who can work remotely want to go back to a traditional commute and work environment full time
  • But people are taking their future into their own hands. Some 77 per cent are ready to learn new skills or completely re-train and 49 per cent would like to set up their own business

Reflecting the fact the pandemic has accelerated a number of workforce trends, 60 per cent are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk; 48 per cent believe ‘traditional employment won’t be around in the future’ and 39 per cent think it is likely that their job will be obsolete within five years.

However, this is not a counsel of despair, as 40 per cent of workers say their digital skills have been improved through the prolonged period of lockdown, and claim they’ll continue to embrace training and skill development. A further 77 per cent are ‘ready to learn new skills or completely re-train’ and 74 per cent see training as a matter of personal responsibility. And, 80 per cent are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace.

Half of workforce report missing out on career opportunities or training due to prejudice

The survey also found that 50 per cent of workers say they’ve faced discrimination at work which led to them missing out on career advancement or training. A further 13 per cent report missing out on opportunities as a result of ethnicity and 14 per cnet of workers have experienced discrimination on the grounds of gender, with women twice as likely to report gender discrimination as men. Some 13 per cent report discrimination on the basis of class, with post-graduates and others with higher qualifications more likely to report prejudice. Younger people are as likely as older people to report discrimination based on age.

On top of that, the survey found there are disparities in access to upskilling opportunities. While 46 per cent of people with postgraduate degrees say their employer gives them many opportunities to improve their digital skills, just 28 per cent of people with school-leaver qualifications say the same. Industries like retail or transport, which are most at risk of disruption, score just 25 per cent and 20 per cent respectively; while banking scores 42 per cent.

“If current patterns in access to training persist, upskilling will increase social inequality when it should be doing precisely the opposite,” said Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader of PwC’s People and Organisation Practice.

“Government and business leaders need to work together to intensify efforts to ensure people in the most-at risk industries and groups get the opportunities they need. Automation and technological disruption are inevitable, but we can control whether its negative effects are managed or not,” Sethi said.

Younger people more focused on maximising income than ‘making a difference’ if forced to choose

Three-quarters of workers globally (75 per cent) say they want to work for an organisation that will make a ‘positive contribution to society.’

However, economic insecurity is limiting people’s ability to pursue purpose driven careers, with younger people particularly affected. Overall, 54 per cent of those polled said, if forced to choose, they would prefer a job that enabled them to ‘take every opportunity to maximise their income’ over a job that ‘makes a difference’ (46 per cent).

Interestingly, those between 18 and 34 are more likely than other generations to prioritise income over purpose in their job with 57 per cent prioritising ‘maximising their income’ over ‘making a difference’ (43 per cent), a margin of 14 points. Those over 55 prioritise making a difference by a margin of eight points, which rises to 22 points amongst workers over 65.

“As the world continues to grapple with a global health crisis and economic uncertainty, we’ve seen workers come to demand more from the business community, expecting their employers to make a positive contribution to society,” said Peter Brown, joint global leader of PwC’s People and Organisation Practice.

“Fortunately, focusing on societal impact and maximising profit are not mutually exclusive, and being a purpose-led business can actually help boost your bottom line,” Brown added.

Employees want the option to work remotely moving forward

The survey concludes that remote working will persist post-lockdown. Of those who can work remotely, 72 per cent of say they prefer a mixture of in-person and remote working, with only nine per cent stating they’d like to go back to their traditional work environment full-time.

This is particularly true of professionals, office workers, business owners and the self-employed, all of whom are able to perform their jobs remotely using technology. Home working need not be limited to professional jobs. Some 43 per cent of manual workers and 45 per cent of semi-skilled workers say there are many elements of their job that they are able to do remotely.

People’s attitudes to working from home also change by location, providing further evidence of how the pandemic has increased the global digital divide. Workers in metropolitan areas (66 per cent) are more likely to work in roles that could allow remote working than those who live in rural areas (44 per cent).

Workers torn on privacy and technology

44% of workers globally would agree to let their employer use technology to monitor their performance at work including sensors and wearable devices, with 31 per cent against. However, many would not go as far as allowing their employers access to their personal data. A further 41 per cent per cent of respondents said that they were unwilling to give their employer access to their personal data including social media profiles, with only 35 per cent willing





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