A quarter of a billion people are set to lose their jobs this year, the Microsoft president has said, warning millions will need to learn new skills.
Brad Smith said the globe faces a huge jobs challenge, requiring millions up-skill to get new jobs or keep their current one.
But, he added, even this doesn’t take into account “internet inequality”.
"It's true that the nature of work varies widely around the world. Not all jobs can be digitised, particularly in the developing world,” Smith said.
"We live in a world of internet inequality – if we don't do something about it we are going to exacerbate all the other inequalities that we all worry about. This is a task beyond any one company or any one government but if we can reach 25 million people we will feel like we are doing our part."
Microsoft recently revealed a plan to help 25 million people help reskill for the digital economy.
Smith said one of the steps needed to build a recovery was expanded access to digital skills.
“To help address this need, today Microsoft is launching a global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. This initiative will bring together every part of our company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.”
The Microsoft president noted that women, younger people, people of colour, people with disabilities and those with lower educational attainment bear the biggest brunt of the downturn, and the pandemic has shone a “harsh light” on a widening global skills gap.
“This longer-term disconnect between supply and demand for skills in the labor market appears to be driven by three primary long-term factors,” he continued.
These are the rapid growth of AI technologies, a growing need for technological skills and a drop off in employer-based training investment since 2000.
“Navigating these challenges to close the skills gap will require a renewed partnership between stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.”
LinkedIn in June revealed the 10 skills most in demand in the future, with the majority tech-related. These include blockchain, artificial intelligence and workflow automation.
However, according to Swinburne University director Dr Sean Gallagher, it will take more than tech skills to succeed in the future.
“In increasingly digital environments, we need to be increasingly human in order to be able to compete, and to work effectively,” Gallagher said.