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Up to 95 Million Low-Skill Workers in Danger of Being Left Behind


The Wall Street Journal - June 21, 2012 - by Daniel Lippman

Between 90 and 95 million low-skill workers around the world could be without jobs by 2020 because there simply won’t be enough positions available for them to apply for, according to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute.

The report said both the private and public sector should make a “concerted” effort to alleviate this and that if little is done, those low-skill workers could be doomed to long-term joblessness.

“If we don’t up the efforts we make to increase the skills of the labor force and at the same time create jobs for low-skilled people at a much higher pace, we’re going to face a world where we’re going to have a long-term group of unemployed people with all of the social costs that that brings,” said McKinsey Global Institute director Richard Dobbs, in a podcast interview accompanying the report’s release.

McKinsey also identified a potential shortage of around 38 to 40 million high-skill workers, which could hold back economic growth in countries around the world, if employers aren’t able to hire qualified people to expand their businesses.

“We’re seeing a growing mismatch between the skills that employers want and what the global labor market is able to supply,” said Dobbs.

For nations like China, without a proper supply of highly-educated workers, the ability to compete in “higher value-added industries” would be curtailed and productivity gains would be slower.

The report also identifies a potential shortage of nearly 45 million “medium-skill” workers in developing countries, saying that although industrialization will increase demand for employees with a high-school education and vocational training, the low rates of secondary school enrollment in some of these countries could make it difficult to supply these workers.

McKinsey said businesses might consider becoming more involved in ensuring that the workforces of tomorrow have the proper skill sets and education.

The report also contains an astonishing number that illustrates just how strongly China has been growing in recent years: in the past decade that country has added 121 million jobs in its manufacturing and service sectors.

McKinsey projects that the global labor force in 2030 will be 3.5 billion people.