Middle-skilled workers to be hit hardest by digitization
While low-skilled workers are going to suffer the most from the consequences of digital transformation long-term (with some exceptions), opportunities for middle-skilled jobs are shrinking the most, according to recent observations in OECD countries.
We used to talk about digitalization and automatization only as processes that will change our working environment in the future, for example through the replacement of humans by robots. Meanwhile, the situation has changed: many of us already feel the effects of digitization and automation. These effects are likely to be amplified even further in future.
Due to the energy revolution that digitalization induced, many companies in the energy business, blindsided by the speed of this revolution, are faced with overcapacity. In Switzerland, General Electric (GE) has just announced a major workforce reduction, which causes 450 employees in Baden and Birr to lose their job. In order to compete with international online providers Migros, one of Switzerland’s biggest retail companies, too, undergoes such transformation. In June, the Genossenschaft Migros Ostschweiz released the dismissal of 90 employees in Gossau. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts difficult times for Swiss employees: 700,000 jobs are associated with a “high risk of automation.”  Moreover, this is only a small, partial reflection of the whole, global labor market.
It is difficult to account for the full impact of digitalization since it bears both positive and negative effects for the job market. Statistical evidence however indicates that digitalization affects the distribution of work, income and wages.  With skills like problem-solving, creative thinking and complex communication that are complementary to digitization, high-skilled workers tend to benefit the most from digitalization. As a result, we can observe an increase in high-skilled jobs in most OECD countries. Likewise, the share of low-skilled jobs grew while the share of middle-skilled jobs decreased. 
Why are middle-skilled workers at greatest risk to be disadvantaged under digitalization? Martin Wörter, Professor of Innovation Economics at ETH Zurich explains that “repetitive activities in the office or in industrial production can be replaced more easily by computers or robots.” Federal employment statistics for Switzerland back up this statement. Within 20 years the number of office workers decreased by 150,000 while the number of craftsmen fell by 90,000. Conversely, the number of academic professions grew by 470,000. 
However, it is short-sighted for companies to simply lay off unqualified workers and to replace them with employees who fit the demanded skills profile. Since skill requirements are changing faster than ever, even if companies could replace their unqualified workers today, what about tomorrow? The only way to solve this problem is to enable reskilling of the existing workforce. Further training could largely reduce redundancies and benefit the company at large. As Bruno Staffelbach, Professor of Human Resource Management and President of the University of Lucerne, says: “Company-specific know-how will become even more important in the future. However, employees can only acquire these skills on the job in their company.” 
Many companies have realized this and adopted effective skills development programs. However, as we have written before on this site, workforce reskilling requires an ecosystem approach that involves individuals, companies, industries, as well as governments. Based on calculations by the World Economic Forum, in the US 45% of workers at risk could be collectively reskilled through businesses working together. If combined with governmental efforts, this number could increase to even 77%. 
For almost a decade, JANZZ.technology has been watching and collaborating in many labor markets worldwide. We offer our know-how and the right data on skills and specializations to tackle general challenges in the job market. Our latest product, Labor Market Dashboard uses real time data in order to establish important labor market indexes such as the most required skills, the most searched for positions or the female/male ratio. Should we have caught your interest and should you wish to learn more about JANZZ.technology’s offers, please write now to firstname.lastname@example.org
 Albert Steck. 2019.Digitalisierung gefährdet Jobs von Mittelqualifizierten am stärksten. URL: https://nzzas.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/digitalisierung-gefaehrdet-jobs-von-mittelqualifizierten-am-staerksten-ld.1492570#swglogin [2019.07.02]
 OECD. 2015. OECD skills outlook 2015: youth, skills and employability, OECD Publishing, Paris, URL: https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264234178-en [2019.07.02]
 OECD. 2019. OECD skills outlook 2019: thriving in a digital world, OECD Publishing, Paris, URL: https://doi.org/10.1787/df80bc12-en [2019.07.02]
 Borge Brende. 2019. We need a reskilling revolution. Here’s how to make it happen. URL: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/skills-jobs-investing-in-people-inclusive-growth/ [2019.07.02]