Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: An Agenda for Leaders to Shape the Future of Education, Gender and Work

World Economic Forum
Publication Date: 
Jan, 2017
Three key interconnected features affect how talent is developed and deployed in the world—today and in the future, across the life cycle of an individual and, in the aggregate, entire populations.
First, technology and globalization are significantly shifting business models in all sectors, increasing the pace of change in job destruction and job creation—including new forms of work— as well as skills churn within existing jobs. While some estimates have put the risk of automation as high as half of current jobs, other research forecasts indicate a risk at a considerably lower value of 9% of today’s occupations. The more conservative estimate takes into account specific job tasks within occupations that, even when not automatable, will go through significant change. On average, a third of the skillsets required to perform today’s jobs will be wholly new by 2020.
Second, education and training systems, having remained largely static and under-invested in for decades, are largely inadequate for these new needs. Some studies suggest that 65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not yet exist and for which their education will fail to prepare them, exacerbating skills gaps and unemployment in the future workforce. In addition, poorly
developed adult training and skilling systems in most economies delay the speed of adjustment to the new context for the currently active workforce of 3 billion people.
Third, outdated but prevailing cultural norms and institutional inertia create roadblocks particularly when it comes to gender. Despite rising levels of education, women continue to be underrepresented in the paid workforce—especially in high potential sectors and high status jobs. According to the latest data, on average globally, women have less than two-thirds of the economic opportunity that men have, and the rate of progress is stalling, with current forecasts to economic parity at 170 years.
These dynamics are further affected through demographic, geopolitical and economic factors, and their results are a challenge to businesses, governments and individuals around the globe. However, they need not be foregone conclusions. If leaders act now, using this moment of transformation as an impetus for tackling long overdue reform on education, gender and work, they have the ability not only to stem the flow of negative trends but to accelerate positive ones and create an environment in which over 7 billion people can live up to their full potential.
The World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on the Future of Education, Gender and Work is a platform bringing together business leaders, policymakers, unions, educational institutions and academics for informed exchange of ideas, setting of priorities and engagement in coordinated action.
The Dialogue Series on the Future of Education, Gender and Work is one format within the System Initiative through which leaders from business, government, academia and civil society develop a common, future-ready agenda on important emerging topics in order to drive change themselves and support others with their expertise. The questions are selected bi-annually and seek to address the most pertinent issues requiring a broad-based leader-level consultation.
Over the course of the fall of 2016, the System’s multi-stakeholder community sought to answer three questions through the Dialogue Series:
— What are the key features of a future ready education ecosystem?
— What are the key adaptation strategies for managing the transition to a new world of work?
— What are the key features of a robust care economy sector?
These questions were chosen for their relevance to the current technological, economic and social trends affecting education,
gender and work. The three chapters compiled in this White Paper –“Transforming Education Ecosystems”, “Advancing the Care Economy” and “Facilitating the Transition to a New World of Work”—are the outcome of the deliberations on these questions. They aim to lay out key action areas and core design principles that can help set a common agenda for advocacy and reform, for leaders, experts and the public.
In each chapter, the key issue is described briefly, followed by the main proposed features of a successful model. In addition, the underlying design principles are described, followed by short success cases. Lastly, there is a simple benchmarking framework allowing stakeholders from all sectors to assess the situation within their own local context and to adapt aspects of the findings as relevant. The community’s questions in the spring of 2017 are expected to cover other dimensions within the broader topics of education, gender and work.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, it offers the impetus for rapid reform—without these reforms we will not be able to ensure that the benefits of new technologies are distributed widely. At the same time, it also offers a unique set of tools that can scale and accelerate reform and spread new opportunities more rapidly than at any point in history.
At the World Economic Forum, the proposals in this White Paper will be used to shape public-private collaborations on education, gender and work in specific countries and regions, and will form the basis of leaders’ discussions on global multistakeholder
collaboration. In addition it is our hope that this White Paper will encourage a shared vision of priorities for reform within education, work and care, and support leaders in advocating for investments in human capital in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Read the full report here.
Workforce Development
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