Work Forecasts in 2024

At the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, the future of work, workers, and the workplace took center stage on the agenda.

One of the key messages from leaders was that investments in the economy cannot succeed without an equivalent investment in people. Here are some of the trends in the labor market and the workplace to watch in 2024, according to experts gathered in Davos.

Generative AI increases productivity, but unevenly

Most chief economists surveyed by the Forum believe that generative AI will increase productivity and innovation in high-income countries. But in the case of low-income countries, just over a third believe this will be the case.

An increase in productivity is expected in sectors with a high knowledge component, such as information and digital communications technologies, financial and professional services, medical and healthcare services, retail, manufacturing, engineering and construction, energy, and logistics.

Digital jobs continue to grow

By 2030, the number of digital jobs worldwide is expected to reach about 92 million. Overall, these are better-paid positions, according to the World Economic Forum’s white paper, “The Rise of Digital Jobs.”

Digital jobs could help balance the shortage of skilled personnel in higher-income countries while boosting opportunities for younger workers in lower-income countries: “If managed well, global digital jobs present an opportunity to leverage talent worldwide, expanding the pool of talent available to employers and providing pathways for economic growth across income spectrums.”

Unemployment levels could rise

The labor market demonstrated its resilience in 2023, with employment levels remaining high, stated Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), at the session “What to Expect from Labour Markets,” held in Davos.

However, he reminded that according to the ILO’s forecasts from early January, the global unemployment rate could increase from 5.1% to 5.2% in 2024, with two million more workers seeking employment.

In the United States, the labor market remained stronger than expected during the first month of the year, with over 350,000 new jobs. The January unemployment rate was 3.7%, near its lowest level in 50 years, according to The Guardian.

Houngbo pointed out that ILO data shows inequalities persist between low- and high-income countries, while young people are at a 3.5 times higher risk of being unemployed than the rest of the adult population, and “many workers struggle to pay bills, which is very concerning.”

The impact of AI on jobs will not be “a labor apocalypse,” but reskilling, upskilling, and lifelong learning will be key to managing the transition, he emphasized.

More "pop-up" offices

LinkedIn has seen a decline in fully remote job postings, from a peak of 20% in April 2022 to just 8% in December 2023, according to its co-founder Allen Blue, speaking during the panel ‘The Role of the Office is Yet to Be Confirmed.’

But employee interest in accepting remote or hybrid jobs remains high, around 46% of applications.

“The office is going to compete with working from home… that’s good for the office,” said Blue, as companies will have to innovate and create work environments that “emphasize dynamic human interaction.”

Young people entering their first jobs desire human connection, thus they are more interested in hybrid roles than remote ones.

Martin Kocher, Federal Minister of Labor and Economy of Austria, stated that some Austrian villages are creating “pop-up” community offices because many workers do not want to work from home and can make use of other services near those spaces.

Kocher predicted the development of more “pop-up” office spaces away from company headquarters.

More women entering the workforce

In 2020, the World Bank concluded that potential benefits from eliminating gender economic differences could unleash a “gender dividend” of $172 trillion for the global economy.

But the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Report found that the gap in participation and economic opportunities has only closed by just over 60%.

Several Davos sessions analyzed how inclusion could benefit the economy, particularly by enabling mothers to re-enter the workforce, which could fill skill gaps.

“There are 606 million women of working age in the world who are not working due to their unpaid care responsibilities, compared to 40 million men,” explained Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Moms First, in a session on “The Workforce Behind the Workforce.”

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