Technologies have been changing our workplaces for quite a while now. Therefore, some of the roles are getting eliminated, while the others are just emerging and becoming highly demandable at a very rapid pace. These shifts in employment are precisely analyzed in a Jobs of the Future Index, invented and measured by the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant. Just as measuring the daily stock movements of a set of companies, the Cognizant’s Jobs of the Future Index (CJoF) tracks job openings of particular roles. Thus, it provides insights into tomorrow’s job market. Having in mind the new technologies that affect the shifts and emerging roles, the algorithms, automation and AI job family represents the core of the CJoF Index. We spoke to Ben Pring, the founder of the Center, to find out more about this relatively new concept and the main trends behind it.
How was the idea of the Jobs of the Future born? What exactly did inspire to establish such an index?
In our work as analysts, we’ve seen over the past decade that traditional ways of thinking about job demand, training and reskilling, and long-term strategic workforce planning were becoming obsolete. It was clear that we need new ways to analyse workforce trends and patterns (for both Cognizant’s clients and prospects) as well as for the market at large – including job seekers that need to prepare for the future. To this end, and to benchmark the emergence of new jobs (like those we covered in our “21 Jobs of the Future” reports), we created the Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index.
Which position do ICT jobs take in comparison with other job families that make up the index?
The preponderance of ICT jobs in the CJoF Index are in the algorithms, automation and AI (AAA) family; AAA represents the core of the CJoF Index, a reflection of the centrality of cutting-edge technology services and solutions to the future of work over the coming years. Since the inception of the Index, the performance of the AAA grouping essentially mirrored the overall CJoF Index in value, because it represents between 80-90% of the job postings captured in the overall Index.
For how many years is this index being measured? Have the results changed over the years or do they stay consistent? What causes that?
Established in October 2018 and updated quarterly since then, the CJoF Index provides leading indicators for how the U.S. economy is adapting in the face of technology-based innovation and disruption. The biggest “shock” to the index’s historical trendlines has been the COVID-19 pandemic, where we saw the pandemic essentially “shred” jobs of the “now”. After a strong start to 2020, the index registered early shockwaves in March 2020 as the crisis hollowed out the physical world economy and called into question continued job growth in many employment categories beyond those that pivot around social distancing and virtual work. Fast forward to today (Q1 2021), the U.S. labour market is recovering faster than expected as successful vaccination programs and stimulus dollars generate sweeping impacts throughout the nation. Yet despite a strong Q1 2021 quarterly performance, digitally enabled job postings (which comprise our Index) are still far below pre-pandemic levels.
You mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic. What are the main changes in jobs and digital development in the light of this global event?
Over the year in the CJoF Index, brick-and-mortar jobs have been more susceptible to business restrictions and lockdowns, facing major disruption at the start of the pandemic, but seeing a rush of activity as the economy began to reopen. Conversely, growth for digitally-enabled positions, which broadly represents higher-wage earners and larger investments for firms, signals longer-term economic confidence which has yet to be fully achieved in Q1 2021. Additionally, from our Work Ahead data, COVID-19 has meant that flexible, resilient and data-intensive ways of working that were begun before the pandemic are now indispensable for weathering both the crisis and what some believe will be a global mega-recession. Once the virus recedes, its lasting impacts will be plain to see, with a permanent shift in the long-term role of digitization and in the dynamics between employees and the organizations they work for. While initially, a major focus will be on redesigning the workplace for social distancing as people slowly return to work, the virus will force enterprises over the medium term to ask more strategic questions about how they undertake fundamental aspects of their mission.
Would you detect any geographical patterns of job markets influenced by the digital revolution? If yes, what are the most common trends?
We analyzed quite a bit of this in our recent piece: 21 Places of the Future, where we outlined where we think many jobs of the future will appear. Following are a couple of the key concepts (derived from “From/To” above) we use for selecting the “places” that became core to the report:
- From the internet to the splinternet. The 25-year-old firmament of the digital “global village” spawned from the World Wide Web is fracturing into three distinct regulatory frameworks: the U.S.’s, China’s and Europe’s. Because of this, “localization” is again extremely important.
- From the West to the East. Western economic dominance is fading as the “data era” begins. If it doesn’t look out, the West – which won the first three industrial revolutions – could be severely tested in the fourth one. Tech metropolis Shenzhen, once synonymous with cheap, low-quality products, is now a high-quality hub for start-ups from all over China. The whiz kids at TikTok in the Haidian District of Beijing are, in actuality, really building platforms for the future of work.