The future of work: Over 100 million workers may need to switch occupations by 2030

One overarching message that can be construed from the report is on the importance of upskilling.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

COVID-19 has disrupted the world of work, and within the next few years, we’ll need to brace ourselves for more change. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report “The future of work after COVID-19”, over 100 million workers will need to find a different occupation by 2030 in the post-COVID‑19 world.

Authors note in the report that “COVID‑19 will be larger than we had estimated in our pre-pandemic research, especially for the lowest-paid, least educated, and most vulnerable workers.”


Researchers project “little or no job growth in low-wage occupations” while “almost all labour demand growth could be in high-wage occupations” in a post-COVID-19 world.

This report on the future of work after COVID-19 is the first of three MGI reports that examine aspects of the post-pandemic economy. 

It examines the long-term impact of COVID-19 on work across several work arenas and in eight economies with diverse labor markets: China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US.

What the research says about the future of work in a post-COVID world

Before the pandemic, researchers found that nearly all low-wage workers who lost jobs could move into other low-wage occupations; for instance, a data entry worker could shift into retail or home healthcare. 

“But given the trends accelerated by COVID‑19, now we estimate that to remain employed, more than half of the low-wage workers currently in declining occupations would need to shift to occupations in higher wage brackets that require different skills,” said authors.

A markedly different mix of occupations may emerge after the pandemic. 

While results vary across the eight focus countries, researchers generally find that the largest net growth is likely to be in:

  • Healthcare
  • STEM
  • Transportation jobs

The largest declines are projected to be in: 

  • Customer service jobs in retail and hospitality
  • Food service
  • Production work
  • Office support roles

“In India and China, we see declines in the share of agricultural occupations as well, in line with the longer-term structural transformation of the labour forces in those countries,” said authors.

They add that jobs in warehousing and transportation may increase as a result of the growth in e-commerce and the delivery economy, but the increase in delivery and transportation jobs does not offset the many low-wage jobs that may decline. 

Demand for workers in the healthcare and STEM occupations — which are high-wage jobs — could grow more than before the pandemic, reflecting increased attention to health as populations age and incomes rise as well as the growing need for people who can create, deploy, and maintain new technologies, it said. 

Researchers estimate that more than half of the low-wage workers currently in declining occupations may need shift to occupations requiring different skills in higher wage brackets to remain employed.

This fuels the need for workers in these segments to upskill themselves.

Reskilling and upskilling to stay competitive in the future of work

According to the report, workers will need to learn more social and emotional skills, as well as technological skills, to move into higher wage occupation brackets.

Women, young, less-educated workers, ethnic minorities, and immigrants may also need to make more occupation transitions after COVID-19.

“In the US, people without a college degree are 1.3 times more likely to need to make transitions compared to those with a college degree, and Black and Hispanic workers are 1.1 times more likely to have to transition between occupations than white workers,” it said. 

“In France, Germany, and Spain, the increase in job transitions required due to trends influenced by COVID‑19 is 3.9 times higher for women than for men. Similarly, the increase in occupational changes will hit younger workers more than older workers, and individuals not born in the European Union more than native-born workers.”