Welcome to our newsletter!

Big Tech’s Upskilling Pledge, Employees Use of GenAI, and Implications of Global Population Decline

Published about 1 month ago • 5 min read

News Spotlight

Big tech's commitment to reskill the workforce. Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and others have formed the AI-Enabled Information and Communication Technology Workforce Consortium to help those who have lost or will lose their jobs to AI to either upskill or reskill them so they can reenter the workforce (ZDNET).

Remote work is the secret to closing the gender gap. When women were able to work remotely during the pandemic, they were able to better balance their work and family life, which kept them employed (Fortune).

Burnout in one's 20s and 30s is tied to worse health outcomes. Young adults who worked shifts outside the usual 9-to-5 schedule in their younger years were more likely to report worse sleep and symptoms of depression in their 50s (US News).

Stat of the Week

22% of employees admit to knowingly violating company rules on the use of generative AI and 34% admit to using unapproved apps and tools to be more productive, reports a new study.

Employees believe the productivity and quality gains from leveraging this technology outweigh the risks of violating company policy. There may also be confusion if rules are unclear, resistance to changing old work habits, and a perceived competitive advantage over colleagues not using AI. In highly competitive environments, some are willing to gain an illegal edge. Additionally, lax enforcement by employers enables rule-breaking without consequences. Fundamentally, the excitement and potential upsides have some employees knowingly disregarding restrictions on generative AI until their companies can adjust with clearer guidelines, better training, and appropriate deterrents for misuse.

Deep Dive Article

What Global Population Decline Means for the Workforce

For decades, rising populations across the world were taken as a given. Each year, more children were born than the one before it, leading to steady global population growth. However, this trend has now begun to shift in a historic reversal. Fertility rates are dropping substantially, leading to contracting populations in many nations rather than continued expansion. This decline in human capital has profound implications for economies and workforces around the world.

Global fertility rates have declined by half since 1960, down to just 2.4 births per woman as of 2020. That figure is below the 2.1 replacement fertility level required for a stable population that isn't growing or shrinking over time. According to recent projections from the United Nations, the global population growth rate is slowing rapidly, and the total world population is expected to peak around 2086 at 10.4 billion before entering a period of sustained decline due to the low fertility rates already being experienced.

This demographic shift is already well underway across much of the developed world. Nations like Japan, South Korea, Spain, Italy, and nearly all of Europe are grappling with contracting populations as low birth rates coincide with increasing life expectancies. Even some still rapidly growing nations like China and India have seen birth rates plummet in just the last few decades as families opt to have fewer children. The effects are stark - nearly 74% of the global population now lives in a country with below-replacement fertility rates.

So, what does this mean for labor forces around the world? Both potential short-term benefits and major longer-term challenges abound.

Potential Benefits of Population Stabilization

Initially, falling birth rates can provide an economic boost through a lowered dependency ratio - meaning there are fewer children and fewer seniors relative to the total working-age population. This dynamic allows for higher productivity per capita and economic growth as there is a larger share of workers compared to dependents who aren't participating in the labor force. It also reduces strains on government resources for education, healthcare, and social safety net systems.

There are also potential societal benefits. Declining fertility empowers women to have greater autonomy over family planning decisions. When not deterred as frequently by childcare responsibilities, women can more fully participate in educational and career pursuits. This expansion of female participation in labor forces and entrepreneurship drives further economic growth and opportunity.

The Aging Workforce Challenge

However, the perceived economic benefits of stabilized populations are relatively short-term. As overall population levels decline, the opposite challenge emerges - excessive aging of the workforce without enough young workers able to replace those who are retiring. Countries like Japan are already illustrating this reality with one in four Japanese residents currently 65 or older and their workforce rapidly contracting.

Extended working lives and medical advances are increasing human longevity. However, this also introduces significant strains on public pension systems, healthcare programs, and elderly care infrastructures. What happens when the ratio of seniors compared to working-age taxpayers skews heavily towards retirees and the elderly no longer in the workforce?

China may face the most extreme demographic shift, with its over-60 population expected to increase to over 400 million elderly residents by 2035. In a country that still lacks a robust and affordable public healthcare and social security system, the Chinese government will face immense pressure to quickly build these support structures for its rapidly aging citizenry.

The consequences are broad-reaching - severe labor shortages across many industries, ballooning government deficits as social safety net costs soar, and negative economic impacts as growth stagnates under the weight of declining populations and workforce productivity levels.

Talent Shortages Already Looming

In the transitional period before severe workforce aging, some countries experiencing fertility decline will experience tightening labor markets and sectoral talent shortages in certain fields, at least for a while. While the working-age proportion of these populations temporarily remains elevated, younger employees will remain in extremely high demand as dwindling birth rates fail to replenish the talent pipeline.

This dynamic will give more leverage to workers, empowering them to demand higher salaries, remote work flexibility, and robust benefit packages as employers compete aggressively for limited labor supply. It may spur long-overdue adoption of automation and labor-supporting technologies in some industries as employee recruitment and retention become greater priorities.

However, this pendulum will eventually swing back. Industries, companies, and public sector organizations that fail to attract and retain enough next-generation talent during this window will face compounded labor crunches once their incumbent workforces largely age into retirement over the coming decades. Critical shortages of skilled trades professionals in fields like construction, manufacturing, and utilities are already looming across much of Europe, North America, and parts of Asia.

Future of Work Factors

To navigate the challenges of population decline, governments, and businesses must rethink traditional workplace practices, retirement ages, immigration policies, and worker education models.

Some countries like Singapore are already pushing boundaries with aggressive initiatives to incentivize higher birth rates through generous parental leave benefits, childcare subsidies, dating programs, and even financial payments to spur bigger families.

Embracing automation that augments human labor will be vital. Productivity-enhancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotic systems, and interconnected smart operations will be critical investments. With fewer working adults available, companies and nations will need to maximize output from their remaining workforces through such labor-multiplying innovations.

It also introduces massive job training and skills development requirements. Continual upskilling and retraining programs will need to extend well into middle and later working years to enable aging employees to interact with and complement these advanced technologies. Simply pursuing old models of mandatory retirement ages and pushing out experienced workers will further compound talent and knowledge gaps.

In the public sector, many existing pension plan structures and mandatory retirement provisions will need revising to incentivize working later in life and encourage skilled seniors to delay drawing retirement benefits and remain productive members of the workforce. Entirely new policy frameworks and service models will also be required for community-based elderly care and in-home nursing initiatives.

Overall, the 21st century is bringing a paradigm demographic shift - the end of steady global population growth after six-plus decades. This depopulation dynamic also means a aging of the world's workforce with fewer young people available to replace retiring employees.

While some temporary economic boosts may emerge early in the transition from declining dependency ratios, nations, and businesses will eventually face the realities of excessive aging and skills shortfalls without proper planning. Priorities like overhauling immigration systems, rolling back retirement ages, developing new elder care infrastructure, upskilling aging workers, and maximizing workplace productivity through automation and AI will become economic imperatives rather than options.

The aging of the global workforce underway presents one of the biggest structural challenges governments and industries will need to navigate. Those proactive in addressing workforce sustainability and rethinking human capital longevity will be better positioned to weather the societal transformations brought by the end of population growth as we know it.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic.

Welcome to our newsletter!

Check out the previous issues of the Workplace Intelligence Insider newsletter below and subscribe now to get new articles every Monday.

Read more from Welcome to our newsletter!

News Spotlight Employees are suing companies over RTO mandates. With companies requiring office attendance, many workers are complaining to National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Washington Post). Workers seek work-life balance and higher wages. While overall job satisfaction for U.S. workers is positive, their contentment dropped for wages and work-life balance (Wall Street Journal). Should children use AI? Preschoolers will do jobs that don’t...

11 days ago • 6 min read

News Spotlight Jobs are scarce for the class of 2024. This year’s graduating seniors face a job market without enough entry-level jobs to go around. How to stand out? Develop skills that AI can’t easily duplicate (The New York Times). Workers use mental health benefits if peers do. When employees have a sense for how much their colleagues are struggling with mental health and burnout, they’re more likely to utilize company-provided benefits (Harvard Business Review). Employees take “hush...

18 days ago • 6 min read

News Spotlight California could be the first state to allow employees to disconnect from work. San Francisco Assemblyman Matt Haney’s bill would make California the first in the country to give employees the legal right to ignore non-emergency calls and emails once the workday ends (CNBC). Guaranteed income could be necessary as AI threatens American jobs. Guaranteed income could be one solution to help provide a safety net and cushion the expected blow AI will have on the labor market (CNN...

25 days ago • 6 min read
Share this post