New and emerging skills

As the nature and structure of employment has changed markedly in recent decades, so has the demand for skills in OECD countries and beyond. Jobs have shifted from the farm to the factory floor to the professional office. The fundamental changes in employment for the past 50 years imply a rise in the demand for non-routine cognitive and interpersonal skills and a decline in the demand for routine cognitive and craft skills, physical labour and repetitive physical tasks.

The perception that the demand for cognitive skills is rapidly changing across OECD countries has spurred attempts to predict which industrial sectors and occupations are most likely to expand in the years to come. Current projections suggest a continuing rise in employers’ need for better cognitive and interpersonal skills. Employment among low-skilled workers will decline, while employment among highly skilled workers is projected to increase, with a shift from manufacturing to service-based economies.

However, it is extremely difficult to forecast skills needs beyond general trends. Occupational forecasting has a long tradition in many OECD countries, usually conducted by academic and government organisations. Their experience reveals that these projections are best used to provide additional information to education and training systems, guiding skills strategies rather than serve as a basis for detailed manpower planning.

As a result, it is important to make education systems rapidly responsive to new demands and involve employers in forecasting skills needs. At the same time, education should aim to provide students the foundation skills required to engage in further learning, in order to easily adapt to changes in future labour demands.



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