A majority of people worldwide believe that global megatrends greatly affect their jobs, a belief that leads 65% to devote significant time each year to refining their skills and 67% to say that they are willing to reskill for a different job role.

This is according to a new study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network, in association with CareerJunction.

A report based on the study, Decoding Global Trends in Upskilling and Reskilling, was released as part of the ongoing Decoding Global Talent series from BCG and The Network.

As part of the study, BCG and The Network polled 366 000 people in 197 countries to assess their awareness of how work is changing and their willingness to change along with it by learning new skills for their current position, known as upskilling, or by training on new skills for a completely different job, or reskilling.

Respondents also shared how they prefer to learn and what skills they believe will be important in the future.

According to the Decoding Upskilling and Reskilling report for South Africa, 54% of respondents – the majority being younger – believe that they will be impacted by technology changes versus the world average of 49% of respondents.

Similarly, 51% of South African respondents, mostly highly educated, believe the same about globalisation versus the world average of 45% of respondents.

According to South African respondents’ perceptions, the top three job roles that will be impacted by technology changes are digitalisation, analytics and automation, and social care, management and legal.

From a globalisation point of view, media and information, human resources, and science and research scored as the top job roles to be most affected, while social care, sales and legal scored as the least to be affected.

“South Africa has a largely youthful population, constituting about one third of the country’s people, and these youth are well aware of the need to upskill and reskill themselves to remain relevant in an ever-changing workplace characterised by rapid technological advancements and anytime, anywhere, any device connectivity,” says Jan Gildemeister, MD and partner at BCG.

Perhaps this is why South Africans (69%) spend more time on learning than the world average (65%) and are significantly more willing to reskill (77%) versus global average of (67%).

The three preferred learning resources according to respondents are on-the-job training (76%), self-study (59%) and traditional educational institutions (45%).

These scores reflect both the need for best-use of productivity hours, and for easily accessible learning platforms that allow people to study freely, at times that suit their lifestyles.

Interestingly, the top three competencies perceived by South Africans as important in the future are communication, leadership and analytical skills. Risk-taking, cross-cultural sensitivity, and agile working ranked last on the list.

To excel in the future, people place the greatest importance on having solid communication and analytical skills, followed by leadership and complex problem-solving skills.

“The flipside of this emergence of new skills and roles is the declining value of traditional skills, indicating the need for businesses and workers alike to adapt to remain relevant in an age of digital disruption,” says Bradley Taylor, MD of CareerJunction.

As such, companies and governments should promote skill-building opportunities to help people prepare for the future and to avoid a two-tiered workforce in which some workers are ready for change and others are not.

In addition, individuals must take charge of their own skills development to remain competitive in a fast-changing labour market, the report concludes.

Across the globe, people are aware of how work is changing, with an average of 61% saying that they believe their current jobs will be greatly affected by megatrends, specifically technology changes such as automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics and globalisation, including trade and outsourcing.

Respondents who feel the most affected by megatrends come from several African countries, Japan, and some Mediterranean countries. Respondents who feel the least affected live in some Central American countries, the UK, and China.

Attitudes toward megatrends appear to have a bearing on work-related learning, with 65% of people worldwide saying they devote a significant amount of time each year to training on new skills to stay relevant in their jobs.

However, substantial geographical differences exist in the amount of time that people spend on skill building.

“The geographic differences in how much time people spend on learning are striking,” says Rainer Strack, a BCG senior partner and co-author of the report. “In Germany, only 38% of respondents spend a few weeks or more per year developing their skills, whereas in China, the number is more than 80%.

“Companies and governments in countries where people are less willing to learn need to take a more active role to address this challenge and support continuous learning for their workforces.”

In addition to upskilling for a current job, 67% of respondents worldwide are open to reskilling for a new job under any circumstances, and 29% would reskill if they encountered serious roadblocks in a job search. Only 3% would completely refuse to reskill to make themselves more attractive for a new job.

As with upskilling, willingness to reskill varies by region.

“Both upskilling and reskilling are important ways to prepare for job changes, and we have seen some differences in how people apply these techniques,” says Pierre Antebi, MD of The Network and a co-author of the report. “For example, globally, people in services, administration, and manufacturing jobs are the most open to developing skills to switch jobs.

“On the other hand, respondents in high-skilled job roles like analytics, IT, and science are less open to reskilling for a new job but spend a lot of time developing skills to be better at their current field.”