The world is in a permanent state of change amid technology, economy, consumer and climate change demands.

By Vanisha Balgobind, talent and organisation lead for Accenture in Africa

Although there have been remarkable leaps in automation and AI, company leaders will continue to need highly skilled talent to meet their business needs. For example, generative AI is expected to affect millions of jobs and tasks, introducing a new dimension of human and AI collaboration that will both create new jobs and enhance existing ones through the transformation of many tasks.

Leaders will also need skilled talent to support their organisations’ environmental goals. To progress social mobility and the green transition, we will need 76-million more social jobs and green jobs across 10 major economies by 2030.

Securing the right skillsets

Finding people with the right skills hasn’t been easy, as companies battle ongoing economic stress and performance challenges. Our latest study titled Re-focus your talent lens: Abundance awaits found that more than 90% of CEOs globally report talent scarcity and a lack of relevant skills for the future of work (for example, sustainability talent) in the top five global challenges affecting their business.

Others in the top five include inflation and price volatility, threats to public health and climate change.

Most employers (77%) across 41 countries are struggling to recruit the skilled talent they need in areas including in-demand technical (such as IT and data) and soft (for example, creativity and originality) skills. In 2023, difficulty recruiting this talent reached a 17-year high.

Where in the world is highly skilled talent?

Our study states that only 30 countries account for 91% of the world’s highly skilled talent – a growing talent pool of 437-million people. Most of these workers (62%) live predominantly outside of the Global North in APAC, Africa and LATAM, including several of the fastest-growing economies globally.

The number of highly skilled workers in these regions is projected to grow to 67%, adding 169-million workers by 2030. Who are they?

These workers include those in occupations categorised at skill level three or four, as defined by the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO). The knowledge and skills required in both categories are usually obtained as a result of studying at higher educational institutions, typically for a period of one-two years for level three and three-six years for level four.

Skill level four occupations require complex problem-solving, decision-making and creativity. These workers include sales and marketing managers, civil engineers, medical practitioners, musicians and computer systems analysts. Skill level three occupations involve complex technical and practical tasks and might include shop managers, medical lab technicians, legal secretaries, and broadcasting and recording technicians.

Putting the talent opportunity in focus

If we broaden the lens on what can fuel a strong labour market, there is more to consider. Other factors beyond access to absolute number of workers, such as the density of the highly skilled, are important indicators when evaluating a country’s labour market for future growth and innovation potential.

Advanced economies like South Korea and Australia – with their already high and still growing density of highly skilled workers, albeit much less populous – are expected to remain important economic centres in APAC.

To capture future growth opportunities that draw on the unique skills of rising talent and attract a diverse pool of highly skilled across various markets including South Africa, companies must act today and introduce their Talent Reinvention journey.