Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways From The World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit

credit: Jean-Luc Auboeuf for the WEF

The disruptive effects AI could have on livelihoods and lives took center stage at the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit in Geneva May 1-2.

A big focus of the conference was the Forum’s  Future of Jobs 2003 report that found that AI – a technology which is expected to lead to an estimated additional $15.7 trillion, or 26% increase, in global GDP by 2030 – will cause significant labor market disruption over the next five years.

Some 23% of jobs are expected to change by 2027, with 69 million new jobs created and 83 million eliminated, according to the report, which was released on May 2, in time for the conference. It says the fastest growing roles are being driven by technology and digitalization. Big Data ranks at the top among technologies seen to create jobs, with 65% of survey respondents expecting job growth in related roles. The employment of data analysts and scientists, Big Data specialists, AI machine learning specialists and cybersecurity professionals is expected to grow on average by 30% by 2027. Training workers to utilize AI and Big Data will be prioritized by 42% of surveyed companies in the next five years, ranking behind analytical thinking (48%) and creative thinking (43%) in importance. Digital commerce will lead to the largest absolute gains in jobs: approximately 2 million new digitally enabled roles are expected, such as e-commerce specialists, digital transformation specialists, and digital marketing and strategy specialists.

At the same time, the fastest declining roles are also being driven by technology and digitalization, with clerical or secretarial roles including bank tellers, cashiers and data entry clerks expected to decline fastest.

The Future of Jobs Report 2023 suggests that tasks are no more automated now than they were three years ago when the report was last published. About a third of tasks (34%) are currently automated, just 1% above the 2020 figure. Surveyed companies also revised down their expectations for further automation, to 42% of tasks by 2027, compared to 2020 estimates of 47% of tasks by 2025.

But while expectations of the displacement of physical and manual work by machines has decreased, reasoning, communicating and coordinating – all traits with a comparative advantage for humans – are expected to be more automatable in the future. Artificial intelligence, a key driver of potential algorithmic displacement, is expected to be adopted by nearly 75% of surveyed companies and is expected to lead to high churn – with 50% of organizations expecting it to create job growth and 25% expecting it to create job losses.

Investment in the green transition and climate-change mitigation, as well as increasing consumer awareness of sustainability issues are driving industry transformation and opening new opportunities in the labor market. The strongest net job-creation effects are expected to be driven by investments that facilitate the green transition of businesses, with more than half of respondents expecting it. As countries seek more renewable energy sources, roles including renewable energy engineers and solar energy installation and systems engineers will be in high demand.

Investment will also drive growth in more generalist sustainability roles, such as sustainability specialists and environmental protection professionals, which are expected to grow by 33% and 34% respectively, translating to growth of approximately one million jobs.

Need for Skilling And Reskilling

Companies report that skills gaps and an inability to attract talent are the key barriers to digital transformation, showing a clear need for training and reskilling across industries. Six in 10 workers will require training before 2027 but only half of employees are seen to have access to adequate training opportunities today. At the same time, the report estimates that, on average, 44% of an individual worker’s skills will need to be updated.

The Future of Jobs report listed the top ten skill priorities for 2027 as analytical thinking; creative thinking; AI and Big Data, leadership and social influence; resilience, flexibility and agility,  curiosity and lifelong learning; technological literary; design and user experience; motivation and self-awareness and empathy and active listening.

Jobs in sectors such as AI and cybersecurity are proving particularly hard to fill, concluded a panel  on Future of Jobs: Science and Technology moderated by The Innovator’s Editor-in-Chief.

Panelist Öykü Isik, a professor of Digital Strategy and Cybersecurity stressed the importance of valuing skills rather than experience or education because skills like emotional intelligence map well to areas like cyber security.

To that end, during the summit  the Forum, in collaboration with PwC, launched a new framework to develop a skills-based labor market and help 100 million have better jobs and economic opportunities.

The Global Future Council on Job Creation announced during the summit that it will work to identify pathways to job creation, including green, tech and social investments. A briefing paper was released to prepare the work of the council

Government’s role in helping reskill and upskill the workforce will be key. During the summit Nigeria and Mongolia announced that they are joining the Reskilling Revolution, establishing Skills and Education Accelerators. Launched in 2020, the Reskilling Revolution has already reached 350 million people through the initiatives of its partners and members to provide better education and reskilling opportunities. The Government of the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement to globally scale up the Reskilling Revolution in its next stage of work during 2023-2025 to reach 600 million people.

In addition the Global Future Council on Job Creation announced during the summit that it will work to identify pathways to job creation, including green, tech and social investments. A briefing paper was released to prepare the work of the council

Generative AI’s Impact on Jobs And Society

The summit highlighted the dilemma the world is currently facing: Most of the world is experiencing a productivity crisis. Somehow we have to take all the advances of the last  60 years with computers, mobile and the Internet and increase productivity by another 50%,  Mihir Shukla, CEO of U.S. company Automation Anywhere, said during a panel that focused on generative AI. We won ‘t be able to do that without AI and automation but using these technologies could also lead to unintended and dangerous consequences. The explored whether it will be possible to regulate the technology in a way that is less harmful than the harm that could be potentially prevented.

Michael Schwartz, Microsoft’s Chief Economist, argued that it is better to wait to see where there is a problem before intervening. Others disagreed and expressed concern that the technology is being unleashed without the proper guardrails in place. Shukla pointed to social media which has led to election interference, fake news and polarization of society, as an example of what can go wrong. “Who would have thought that a like button could have caused all of that?” he asked.

Generation AI

A panel called Generation AI, which was moderated by The Innovator’s editor-in-chief, covered how advances in AI are changing education and the future work force.  Large language models such as ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, can write essays, create images, explain complex topics and act as sparring partners, generating counter arguments to help prepare students for debates. Students are using it to cheat but teachers are also using it to be provide more personalized tutoring to their students. If, for example, a teacher notices that a student has not grasped a particular concept it can ask ChatGPT to generate quizzes that will help the student catch up, something educators in the public school system do not have time to do for individual students.

While some schools and geographies have moved to ban ChatGPT others are embracing it. A professor at one U.S. university is asking students to hand in three labeled versions of their assignments: one done by themselves, one done uniquely by ChatGPT and one completed by ChatGPT and enriched with their own work. A professor at Tulane University;s business school is asking students to use ChatGPT to create their business plans.

ChatGPT could help close the digital skills gap. For example, Sirius, an accredited college in Brazil helping people in the Global South make more money with the two biggest levers of economic mobility today: AI and global remote jobs. It is using large language model tutors to help its students. When they graduate the students are being hired for remote jobs at companies like Uber and Deloitte, earning on average 67% more than their peers. On the other hand, of 332,000 schools whose digital connectivity information is mapped, nearly 46% do not have access to any connectivity, meaning the digital divide risks to get bigger.

The gender divide in technology is also an issue: the percentage: of women graduates in information and communication technologies is 1.7%, compared to 8.2% of men. Without early and targeted exposure to advanced technologies, these gaps are likely to worsen.

So, what can educators do to confront these challenges and ensure that generate AI is used for good and students are both protected and acquire the skills necessary for the future work force?\

“The greatest opportunity with generative AI is to accelerate an evolution of the education system to teach not only the skills of the past, but also the skills of the future,” said panelists Hadi Partovi Founder and CEO,”

During the summit launched a new coalition of education and technology leaders – TeachAI – in collaboration with the World Economic Forum that aims to provide much-needed global guidance on integrating AI effectively in global primary and secondary education to promote future-ready skills.

David Edwards, General Secretary, Education International, a global union federation of teachers’ trade unions consisting of 401 member organizations in 172 countries and territories that represents over 30 million education personnel from pre-school through university, said his organization has started working with OECD to develop a code of Ethics for teachers using generative AI.

Teachers need guidance, said panelist Njideke U. Harry, a Schwab Foundation Social Innovator and Founder and Member of the Executive Board of Youth For Technology Foundation.The entire education system needs to be revamped and children taught critical thinking and adaptability so that they can succeed in the workplaces of the future, she said.

Edwards pointed out that there are still hundreds of thousands of children who don’t have access to any kind of education. Digital technologies, including generative AI-powered chatbots acting as teachers and tutors, could give everyone an equal shot at a good education and help the workforce of tomorrow. “If we don’t fix this, it’s on us,” he said.


About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.