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The report, published by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), assess the lasting impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on labour demand, the mix of occupations, and the workforce skills required in eight countries with diverse economic and labour market models: China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The paper builds on the premise that COVID-19 has, for the first time, elevated the importance of the physical dimension of work (in comparison, before the pandemics, the largest disruptions to work involved new technologies and growing trade links). Therefore, the paper examines how the trends accelerated by the pandemic may reshape work in the long term. It explores these changes through 2030 in eight above-mentioned countries with diverse economic and labour market models.

For the purpose of this research, the authors have identified ten work arenas (medical care, personal care, on-site customer interaction, leisure and travel, home support, indoor production and warehousing, computer-based office work, classroom and training, transportation of goods and outdoor production and maintenance), that group occupations according to their proximity to coworkers and customers, the number of interpersonal interactions involved, and their on-site and indoor nature.

The key findings of this research suggest that jobs in work arenas with higher levels of proximity  are likely to see greater transformation after the pandemic, triggering knock-on effects in other work arenas as business models shift in response. Furthermore, the disruptions to work sparked by COVID 19 are expected to be larger than estimated in the pre-pandemic research, especially for the lowest-paid, least educated, and most vulnerable workers. The research estimates that more than  100 million workers in the eight countries we studied may need to switch occupations, and these workers will face even greater gaps in skill requirements. As a result, the paper provides some long term insights, calling for agile and collaborative responses  which could lead to higher productivity growth and create career paths with upward mobility for workers.

This report on the future of work after COVID-19 is the first of three MGI reports that examine aspects of the postpandemic economy. The others look at the pandemic’s long-term influence on consumption and the potential for a broad recovery led by enhanced productivity and innovation.


Skills intelligence publication details

Target audience
Digital skills for the labour force.
Digital technology / specialisation
Geographic scope - Country
Industry - field of education and training
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) not further defined
Geographical sphere
International initiative
Publication type