November 28, 2018

Guest blog: Future Professionals and the Transformation of Work

Olli Alanen

Executive Director, The Children and Youth Foundation

The fundamental transformation of work has been a topic of discussion everywhere in recent years. Young people – the future professionals – face something of a dilemma. On the one hand, they are urged to get an education required for entering the labour market. On the other hand, they are told the jobs and careers for which they train might soon disappear forever.

The collision of global megatrends, such as digitalization, urbanization, climate change and economic globalization, has led to fundamental changes in our economies and daily lives. As a part of this development, the way we work – and, perhaps even more so,  the way we talk about the future of work – has changed.

Discussion about the future of work is confusing

One of the great thinkers of our time, historian Yuval Noah Harari, points out in his latest book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century that we have no idea what the labour market will look like in 2050. The technological revolution might cost billions of people their jobs in the coming decades. Harari argues that we might witness the rise of the useless class

People born in the twenty-first century live in an era when the future of work is generally seen to be full of uncertainties. Diplomas don’t guarantee anything. And many experts claim that the need for human labour will decrease fast. Together with Tieto, we decided to ask more than 3,000 Finnish adolescents, aged 13-16, last spring (2018) about their views toward the future of work. Alarmingly, the study revealed that 25% of respondents are not sure whether they will be able to find a job at all in the future.

For our teenagers, this is all very confusing. A scarcity of jobs leads to a lack of belief in the future – a phenomenon that might have very negative consequences not only at individual but also societal level. Another interesting finding in our study with Tieto is that digital skills were rated as one of the most necessary competences in the future labour market, second only to social skills and knowing languages. 

Digital gap amongst youth poses a huge threat

In his book Harari argues that we don’t know what the labour market or even the world will look like in the coming decades. But one thing we know with certainty: it will be a lot more digital than it is now. This view chimes with the findings of our study, with some 92% of those polled believing that technology will play a greater role in the future of work.

But there are also severe threats related to digitalization. Social exclusion is now a core topic of political debate in Finland. The inequality gap is widening all over Finland, a country that used to be the promised land of equality. Digitalization is opening a new gap – a digital one – amongst youths. Material access, digital skills and motivation to use technology vary a lot. 

It is very important to keep in mind that digital skills are not only about digital skills. They are about democracy and the ability to participate in society and to build a good future for oneself. It is self-evident, but I’ll say it anyway: without good digital readiness it will be impossible for people born after 2000 to thrive in the future workforce. Digital equality is a hallmark of a prosperous future society.

To solve the twenty-first century challenge of digital inequality cross-sector co-operation is needed. Tieto’s genuine will to work with us on increasing the capabilities of our younger generation to succeed in the future is a good example of Finnish corporate ethics and responsibility. We welcome all other companies to join our cause.

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During its 50th anniversary year, Tieto is focusing on delivering digital democracy. This means driving inclusiveness and increasing digital equality: shaping a smarter society and building a better future through its core expertise, standing up for equal opportunities.

Tieto collaborates with Children and Youth Foundation to supoport young people in strengthening their life skills and finding their place in the society.

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