Hopes and fears 2021

The views of employees on the future of work

Workers are willing to prepare for the future of work

Workers are prepared to learn new skills or completely retrain. They believe they can meet the challenges of automation. And during the Covid-19-pandemic they proved that by learning new digital skills and by quickly adapting to remote work. These are outcomes of a large survey PwC committed in which about 2,000 Dutch workers participated. The survey reveals generally a positive view on the future of work, although also some worries. Workers are concerned automation will in the long term threaten their jobs.


Hopes and Fears 2021

The future of work: concerns about job security

  • 52 percent are confident about the future of work. 32 percent are concerned. 

  • 23 percent think it’s likely that their job will be obsolete within five years. fifty percent think that’s unlikely. 

  • 55 percent expect traditional employment won’t be around in the future 

  • 46 percent are worried that automation is putting many people’s jobs at risk. However a much lower, but still considerable percentage (29 percent) are worried that their own job is at risk. 

  • 32 percent believe that traditional employment won’t be around in the future, and that we’ll sell our skills on a short-time basis to those who need them.

Bastiaan Starink
Future of Work lead, PwC Netherlands

What is striking is that people expect the changes in working through the use of technology to continue and to bring about even more changes. This is not surprising in view of the Covid-19 crisis which required a large proportion of workers to work digitally and remotely overnight. We have found in our study How to make vulnerable jobs ready for the future that a large number of jobs will eventually disappear due to automation. At the same time, we saw in this study that many of the skills that people had acquired in those jobs can also be used in new workplaces. People don't have to learn completely new skills. There is a pace for everyone on the labor market. I think that's a positive message.

Reskilling and upskilling: employees are willing

  • 71 percent of the respondents are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace. 25 percent say they are very confident. Twenty percent have no confidence at all. Confidence is higher among workers who are more highly educated and workers in higher income groups. It is notable that young people are the least confident. 
  • 67 percent of the Dutch respondents say they have digital skills.

  • 75 percent of respondents believe that employers are most responsible for up- and reskilling. This is followed by the government (67 percent) and personal responsibility (49 percent). A majority believe that the employer should contribute to the cost of training if the skills learned are relevant to this employer. 

  • 73 percent are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. 

  • 67 percent learn continuously new skills to keep up with technological changes. 

  • 80 percent say their current employer is giving them opportunities to improve their digital skills outside their normal duties. 

  • 42 percent say they had at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic sufficient digital skills to do their job. 19 percent successfully improved their digital skills during the pandemic. 

Ilja Linnemeijer,
Chief Digital Officer, PwC Netherlands

For many years, our CEO Survey has ranked the availability of key skills among the top ten concerns of corporate executives. This year's survey also found that more than three-quarters of CEOs want to accelerate digital transformation. Organizations have no choice but to face the challenge of retraining and upskilling their employees. The good news from this Hopes and Fears survey is that these employees say they are ready for it. And so there is an important task for the companies - to guide their staff in their reskilling and upskilling.

The values of work: social impact of work and flexibility highly valued

  • 67 percent of the respondents say they want to work for an organisation that will make a positive contribution to society. 

  • If forced to choose, 56 percent of the respondents say they’d choose a job that makes a difference over the choice that maximises their income. This applies even more for the older age groups. 

  • When it comes to the choice between job security and long term service with an organisation or to be in control of their work (what I do and when I do it), the outcome is fifty-fifty. The older age groups find control more important.  Self-employed people and people on temporary contracts find control significantly more important. 

  • 42 percent of workers who can work remotely say they prefer a mixture of face-to-face and remote working. Only a very small minority prefer to work remotely completely (8 percent) or completely remotely (11 percent). 

  • 33 percent would agree to let their employer use technologies to monitor their performance at work. 37 percent are against it and 27 percent don’t know. 

  • 32 percent of the workers say the’ve faced discrimination at work in terms of being overlooked for career advancement or inclusion in training. For the most part this concerns age discrimination, with both young and older people saying they suffered from it. 

About the survey

In February 2021, PwC commissioned a survey of 32,517 members of the general public. Respondents included workers, business owners, contract workers, students, unemployed people looking for work, and those on furlough or who were temporarily laid off. The survey polled workers in 19 countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UAE, UK, US.

Contact us

Bastiaan Starink

Bastiaan Starink

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 375 58 28

Ilja Linnemeijer

Ilja Linnemeijer

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)61 091 39 48

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