According to the latest PwC Hopes & Fears 2021 survey, released on April 1st, 50% of the world’s workforce are reportedly ‘excited or confident’ about the future. This news comes despite the disruptions of the last year, in which an estimated 114 million people lost their jobs according to the ILO. The PwC Hopes & Fears survey is one of the largest of its kind, surveying more than 32,500 workers across Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kuwait. Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar. Saudi Arabia. Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UAE, UK, US to gauge their expectations and anxieties over automation, diversity and inclusion, unemployment and skills of the future.
Here are some of the key findings from the survey:
Purpose-driven companies stand to attract top talent
After a year of uncertainty, the results show respondents are keen to work for a purpose-driven company. Overall, 75% of workers worldwide want to work for organisations that will make a positive contribution to society. This feeling is particularly strong in China (87%), India (90%), and South Africa (90%). However, money is also important and respondents are pretty evenly split between choosing to maximize their income (54%) and choosing a job that makes a difference over more money (46%), speaking to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic as well.
Age wasn’t such a defining factor in this and, as is clear in the table below, working for a job that makes a difference is important to the majority of age groups across the board:
People are eager to learn, reskill and upskill
A sizeable majority (77%) of respondents are eager to learn new skills or retrain, while 40% of workers say that they have improved their digital skills during the pandemic. Employers are, broadly speaking, supportive of their employees trying to improve their digital skills beyond their normal duties, with around a third (31%) of all respondents saying this has been the case for them. However, this proportion is far higher among those with a post-grad certification (46%) than those with technical qualifications (22%). Younger people were around twice as likely as older people to get opportunities to upskills and those in urban areas were 1.5 times as likely as those in smaller towns. In addition, high-risk industries such as retail or transport scored just 25% and 20% respectively in terms of receiving training opportunities, whereas 42% of those in banking said it was the case of them, indicating another possible area of disparity and discrimination.
Discrimination remains a barrier to progress at work
Despite the global attention focused on intolerance and injustice over the last year, half of respondents worldwide said they have experienced discrimination at work based on factors like their age, gender, sexual orientation race and/or ethnicity and religious beliefs. Specifically, 22% of workers say they missed out on a progression because of their age, and younger workers were just as likely as older people to experience discrimination. Commenting on these results, Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader of PwC’s people and organization practice said “if current patterns in access to training persist, upskilling will increase social inequality when it should be doing precisely the opposite.”
Anxieties persist over lack of stable work and replacement by automation
Some of the most striking findings come from the ongoing anxiety over automation and securing stable employment. Globally, 60% of respondents are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk, 45% believe it’s putting jobs like theirs at risk and 39% think it’s likely that their job will be obsolete within five years. Even more strikingly, 48% of respondents believe traditional employment won’t be around in the future, and that we’ll sell our skills on a short-term basis to those who need them, presumably a nod to an increased use of gig workers or contingent workers. Furthermore, over half (56%) think few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future, but this figure leaps starkly to 81% who say the same in India. “As companies accelerate their automation plans and many jobs continue to be remote, employees across every sector will need to acquire new skills that enable them to think and work in different ways. The future isn’t a fixed destination. We need to plan for dynamic rather than static tomorrows,” said the authors of the report. Despite all these fears, 64% of global respondents are positive about technology and believe it presents more opportunities than risks.
Increased flexibility and remote work will stay in high demand
Another clear trend was that flexibility is the future when it comes to work models. In total, 72% of respondents who could work remotely said they prefer a hybrid combination of in-person and remote working and only 9% of the same group want to go back to full-time in person work with a commute. Over half (51%) believe tech innovations will transform the way people work over the next three to five years and close to half (44%) would agree to let their employer monitor their performance through sensors or wearable devices.
“As leaders reimagine the offices of tomorrow, we expect the focus to be on increasing space where people can initiate, develop, and strengthen relationships. Where they can experience the culture and brand. And of course, where teams come together to brainstorm, collaborate, and problem solve,” said the report authors.
Over a year into the pandemic, the PwC Hopes & Fears survey reveals the complex mixture of sentiments workers are feeling as they look towards the future with optimism and anxiety. Based on these results, it seems workers globally are eager to learn, committed to flexible work arrangements and interested in how technological innovations will transform their working lives both for the worse and for the better.