DAVOS 2021: Plugging workers' skill gaps 'could boost global GDP by $6.5tn in a decade'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3 min read
A visitor looks at logos of LinkedIn Corporation at the MEDEF union summer forum on the campus of the HEC School of Management in Jouy-en-Josas, near Paris, France, August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
LinkedIn's CEO appeared at a Davos summit event on re-skilling. Photo: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Plugging skills gaps among the world’s workforce could boost global GDP by $6.5tn (£4.8tn) by 2030, according to new research.

Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and consultancy PwC suggests an upskilling drive could add as much as 7.5% to output in China, 6.8% in India and 3.7% in the US.

It could mean a net creation of 5.3 million extra jobs, with some jobs at risk from technological change but better-skilled workers likely to be “complemented...rather than replaced” by new technology, according to researchers.

The analysis was published to mark an event on ‘delivering the reskilling revolution’ at the virtual Davos Agenda 2021 summit on Monday.

Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which organised the summit, highlighted the figures during the session. She told the panel the social repercussions of upskilling were “more important than the economic.”

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The research said millions of workers were being “left behind” because of volatile market conditions, COVID-19 and the decline of industries.

Business services, manufacturing, health, social care, agriculture and construction are among the sectors where greater skills are reported to have the biggest potential to boost productivity.

Zahidi also highlighted WEF’s own work on skill-building, working with partners in 10 countries to support 15 million people.

Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn, appeared alongside Zahidi on the panel.

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Describing the platform as a “real-time dashboard into the global economy,” he said COVID-19 had fuelled demand for IT skills.

“Covid has compressed years of digital transformation into the last couple of months,” he said.

LinkedIn expects 150 million new tech jobs to be created worldwide over the next five years, such as software developers, product managers and AI roles.

Many roles previously carried out offline are now going to require digital skills, added Roslansky.

He also highlighted LinkedIn research indicating workers in sectors hit hard by the pandemic could be better-placed for new roles in different sectors than might be assumed.

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Some 75% of those filling IT roles were from non-IT backgrounds, he said. Workers serving food were likely to have 71% of skills needed for customer service roles in high demand, while bartenders had half the skills needed for sales roles, according to Roslansky.

“Transitioning into new roles is possible because skills are the currency,” he said.

WEF’S annual meeting of global business, political and civil society leaders has been postponed to May and moved from Davos, Switzerland, to Singapore because of the pandemic.

The move led to the launch of this week’s additional ‘Agenda’ event in the run-up to the in-person summit, with more than 100 virtual sessions including heads of state and CEOs of global companies.