The Global Talent CrunchIntroduction

The global talent crunch is coming.

The Global Talent CrunchIntroduction

The global talent crunch is coming.

A major crisis is looming over organizations and economies throughout the world. By 2030, demand for skilled workers will outstrip supply, resulting in a global talent shortage of more than 85.2 million people. Signs are already emerging that within two years there won’t be enough talent to go around. In countries with low unemployment and booming manufacturing production, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, a labor shortage has already accelerated automation and increased use of robotics—not to replace people, but because there aren’t enough of them to fill the factories.

Left unchecked, the financial impact of this talent shortage could reach $8.452 trillion in unrealized annual revenue by 2030, equivalent to the combined GDP of Germany and Japan. The United States alone could miss out on $1.748 trillion in revenue due to labor shortages, or roughly 6% of its entire economy. While leaders are betting heavily on technology for future growth—a 2016 Korn Ferry survey found that 67% of CEOs believe technology will be their chief value generator in the future of work—they cannot discount the value of human capital. Even companies that are using more robotics foresee a growing need for human talent with advanced skills; for example, redeploying people from the factory floor, where robots can perform repetitive work, to the research laboratory. The problem, however, is the mismatch between technological advances, including automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, and the skills and experience workers need to leverage these advanced tools. Technology cannot deliver the promised productivity gains if there are not enough human workers with the right skills. This has set the scene for a global talent crunch.

The talent crunch, as modeled in this study, refers to the gap between talent supply and demand at three critical milestones: 2020, 2025, and 2030. This report seeks to help leaders successfully plan and execute on their strategies, despite the risk, by examining the scale, impact, and timing of the talent crunch and what it means for organizations over the long term. For this study, we assessed the talent-supply gap in 20 developed and developing economies across the Americas (Brazil, Mexico, the United States), Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA; France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom), and Asia Pacific (Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand). What we found is that global growth, demographic trends, underskilled workforces, and tightening immigration mean that even significant productivity leaps enabled by technological advances will be insufficient to prevent the talent crunch.

Talent supply and demand in the future of work.

More granularly, we examined talent supply and demand in each of the 20 economies as a whole and within three major knowledge-intensive industries—financial and business services (including insurance and real estate), technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT), and manufacturing—and at three distinct skill levels, referenced throughout as:

  • Highly skilled workers (Level A): These individuals have completed post-secondary education, such as college or university, or a high-level trade college qualification.
  • Mid-skilled workers (Level B): These individuals have attained upper secondary education, such as high school, or a low-level trade college qualification.
  • Low-skilled workers (Level C): These individuals have less than upper secondary education.

Our findings forecast the scale and impact of the talent crisis at each milestone in terms of skilled employee shortages and what they imply in terms of lost opportunity for value creation. For instance, the United States’ financial services sector will suffer the most from stunted growth due to lack of talent, with $435.69 billion in projected unrealized economic output, equal to about 1.5% of the country’s entire economy. For the all-important technology sector, we found that a labor-skills shortage will reach 4.3 million workers by 2030, or 59 times the number of employees of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. On the positive side, India is projected to have a skilled-labor surplus of around 245.3 million workers by 2030, the only country in our study expected to have a surplus, owing mainly to its vast supply of working-age citizens and government programs to boost workers’ skills.

Fortunately, there is time to mitigate the risk. Governments and organizations must make talent strategy a key priority and take steps now to educate, train, and upskill their existing workforces.

This report will help leaders understand how talent shortages are impacting their sectors and the regions where they operate so they can immediately begin to address the talent crunch—before they fall behind and suffer the economic consequences. Time is running out.

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Understand the talent crunch