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From 'zombie' to 'angel' job through re-learning and re-alignment

Make vulnerable jobs ready for the future

Nearly 1.6 million jobs in the Netherlands that are alive and well in the near term, might become obsolete in the medium to long term. In other words, 1.6 million people are likely to be affected by this. In order to prevent 1.6 million people from becoming obsolete, reskilling will be crucial. People working in zombie jobs will have to be reskilled and employed in other roles that have better prospects, or realigned across regions to balance demand and supply. Reskilling does not mean learning completely different skills. 82 per cent of the existing skills have potential in other jobs that will be needed in the long term. PwC’s report 'How to make vulnerable jobs ready for the future' gives a broad overview of zombie jobs in the Netherlands. 

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Job Proximity Assessment

As nearly 1.6 million jobs in the Netherlands are at risk of becoming obsolete, it is important to understand how skills can be realigned in the labour force. This video shows an example of a job proximity assessment that can help in understanding the relative similarity of two occupations based on the skills needed in each of them. Such an assessment can help gain insight into which jobs to reskill towards to ensure better prospects for the future.

Jobs that will disappear in time as a result of digitalisation

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused high levels of unemployment. A large proportion of the jobs lost were from sectors most hit by the pandemic such as transportation, tourism, entertainment and retail, and workers in short-term work arrangements. Many jobs in these industries were saved as well – retained with help from the employment support measures announced by the government. ‘A number of these jobs will probably become less relevant in the future and disappear after all,' says Jan Willem Velthuijsen, Chief Economist at PwC. 'This is mainly due to advancing digitalisation leading to automation and a demand for different, new skills.' The double disruption in the labour market - Covid-19 and further advancing technology - is the cause of the emergence of so-called 'zombie' jobs: jobs that are currently kept alive by employment support measures, but are highly likely to be dead on withdrawal of government support in the future.

'Our research shows that 82 per cent of the skills required for the jobs under pressure can also be used in other professions. So many of the available skills from outdated jobs are therefore still very valuable in the labour market.'

Bastiaan Starink PwC

Former skills can be used in new jobs  

In addition to 'zombie' jobs, there are also stable and 'angel' jobs: jobs that have high demand in the future and limited number of job seekers to fulfill the vacancies. ‘In order to get people from a 'zombie' job to an 'angel' job, retraining and upskilling will be the key, says Bastiaan Starink, Future of work-specialist at PwC. ‘Our research shows that 82 per cent of the skills that were needed to do the zombie jobs in the Netherlands, can potentially be used for other jobs (stable or angel). Many of the available skills from obsolete jobs are therefore still very valuable in the labour market. For example, a call centre worker is a job that may be under pressure, but many of the skills needed for this job are also needed for a stable administrative job.’

Jobs are not everywhere under the same amount of pressure 

Retraining and upskilling is one part of the solution. The other part of the solution is to realign demand and supply between labour market regions. In some regions, jobs may be under pressure, while in others there is still demand for them. In our research, we see that the job of receptionist will be under pressure in the future, but not in all regions equally. There will still be regional differences in the prospects for different jobs. In that case, the solution does not seem to be reskilling and a change of profession, but looking at other regions or sectors,' concludes Bastiaan Starink.

Contact us

Bastiaan Starink

Bastiaan Starink

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 375 58 28

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Chief Economist, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)62 248 32 93

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