The demand for digital skills is a global phenomenon, with digital occupations dominating job postings in five Asia-Pacific economies, according to recent research by Burning Glass Technologies commissioned by the international organization APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation).
The APEC study, “Closing the Digital Skills Gap Report: Trends and Insights,” found growing demand for digital skills in Australia, Singapore, Canada, and the United States from 2013 to 2019. New Zealand was the exception, according to the report.
The APEC report included research from both Burning Glass and LinkedIn. The Burning Glass section has five major findings:
- Basic digital skills are in high demand in many occupations and are highly transferable. Across the five economies studied, 26% of all job postings explicitly required at least one baseline digital skill in 2019.
- Seven out of ten (69%) of all 2019 job postings in the five economies studied are in digital occupations, defined as occupations in the top quartile of those requiring digital skills.
- Digitalization and remote work are often interrelated. The more digital skills an occupation requires, the more common it is for remote work to be available.
- Occupations that involve more advanced digital skills usually pay more than other occupations.
- Digitalization is growing at a fast pace. The least digital occupations in 2013 have increasingly required digital skills at a very fast rate, and many of the fastest-growing digital skills are increasing rapidly.
The need for digital skills is most evident regarding “baseline skills,” skills that are important across occupations and form the foundation for more advanced skills. A good example is the Microsoft Office suite, which is in the top three baseline skills required in Canada, the United States, and every other Asian-Pacific economy examined in the report.
Interestingly, the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Australia all follow this pattern, while New Zealand showed minimal or negative change between 2013 and 2019, suggesting “a unique presence of factors in New Zealand’s economy or industry composition.”
These findings reinforce Burning Glass research conducted in the US and the UK demonstrating that computer science skills are in high demand not only in tech jobs but throughout the job market. The digitalization of jobs through an increase in digital skill requirements has changed the nature of existing jobs and created entirely new ones.
Although the study was completed prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these findings also carry significant ramifications for the present economic downturn. Digital skills are correlated with the rising inequality that has emerged during the pandemic. In occupations where digital skills and remote work are the norm, workers are less likely to be adversely impacted by lockdowns and other restrictions intended to stem the spread of the virus. Workers displaced during the pandemic can leverage the digital skills that they already have and gain additional skills that are suited for occupations that are better navigating the fast-shifting landscape.