Theme 13

The looming jobs crisis

Major economies are not replacing their populations fast enough to stave off future labour shortages in key industries, while in Africa, a rapidly-growing young population means millions of new jobs will be needed. Today’s labour policies will determine how successfully countries meet these challenges, which will require them to create high quality jobs and invest in the education and training workers need to fill them.


Labour shortages in some regions are predicted to grow, the result of various factors including the Covid aftermath [187] , ageing populations, early retirement, immigration policies and mismatches [188] between available skills and job profiles.  Spain is the latest EU country to offer “digital nomad” [189] visas for non-EU citizens to live there and work remotely, hoping to boost talent and investment in the country.  Technological advances, like robotics or AI, will not solve these problems if workers don’t have the right skills [190]  to leverage these tools. 

Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050 [191].  In 10 years’ time, half the entrants to the job market will come from sub-Saharan Africa [192], where the working-age population will increase by 20 million a year over the next two decades: a “youth bulge” that could mean serious problems for stability, migration and societal health if millions of young people can’t find jobs.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of employees – 40% - who say they are likely to move [193] this year: a potential drain on the continent’s human capital.  However, young Africans appear more optimistic than their older counterparts; 54% of 15- to 29-year-olds in sub-Saharan Africa said their standard of living was improving [194] in 2021, compared with 42% of those aged 30-49 and 36% of those over 50.   

  • Growing youth bulge in many developing countries

  • Shifting nature of work

  • Social contracts under pressure


Illustrative Signals
  • Labour shortages in some regions predicted to grow

  • Spain latest EU country to offer “digital nomad” visas for non-EU citizens

  • Half the job market entrants 10 years from now will come from sub-Saharan Africa

  • Sub-Saharan Africa has highest percentage of employees – 40% - likely to move 
    this year

So what for development

A youth bulge won’t deliver a dividend without some smart choices.  How can governments work with the private sector to invest in human capital, develop better working standards to attract and retain labour and create better employment opportunities? 

The technology of the fourth industrial revolution, like automation and robotics, will not solve these problems if there is a skills mismatch with the talent needed in a more technologically advanced world.  Investment in human capital is needed to prepare people for the jobs of tomorrow.  This means not just education and training (including for jobs we don’t even know yet) but also preparation for entirely new markets.

In regions with more young people, especially Africa, will their skills match the needs of a “labour export market”, where their labour and services are in demand beyond Africa?

If not, how might millions of disillusioned, unemployed young people affect the stability of societies, and what will be the impact on migration?  Can the continent instead find a more positive trajectory, seizing on the current hopefulness among young Africans to build an alternative, better future by creating a competitive labour market and preparing young people for the economies and jobs of tomorrow?


Imagining the future

What might our world look like in 2040? 
Fictional snippets from a possible future!

Job advertisement from 2040 for a “space lawyer”. Location: Space-based office We are seeking a highly motivated and experienced Space Lawyer to join our growing team and provide legal guidance and support to our space-based operations and projects.