Executive summary

The adoption of digital technologies is enhancing the way people learn, where, when and how they work, and spurring their engagement in society. This report reviews the evolution of a wide selection of digital occupations using a unique set of data collected from job postings published online.

This report presents the most recent trends in the demand for those digital occupations, highlighting where labour market bottlenecks are emerging and policy action is – and will be – needed to support individuals to acquire digital skills to thrive in rapidly evolving labour markets and societies. The granularity of the information used in this report enables to identify the specific skill demands of employers in each country and to support the design of labour market, education and training policies to respond effectively to current and forthcoming challenges. This report also targets the general public, by providing insights on the direction taken by labour markets and on what workers may need to expect in terms of skill demands in the near future so that their education and training decisions can be informed by knowledge of these recent trends.

This report focuses on Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore and Spain.

Among the digital occupations analysed, software developers, programmers and engineers, data scientists and data engineers have experienced some of the most notable rates of growth in most countries. In Canada, for instance, the number of job postings for user interface and user experience (UI/UX) designers was more than three times larger in 2021 than in 2012. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, the demand for UI/UX designers reached its all-time peak in 2021, with almost 15 000 new job postings published online in one year.

In most EU countries, information on online job postings (OJPs) is only available for a relatively shorter time span and at a higher aggregation level. Evidence for EU countries shows that job vacancies for digital professionals have been negatively affected by the strong decline in economic activity experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, even during the pandemic, some digital occupations have experienced a marked increase in the volume of vacancies relative to the pre-pandemic period in the EU. In Italy, for instance, the number of OJPs for database and network professionals increased nearly nine times between 2014 and 2021, reaching more than 2 000 new vacancies per year. Looking forward, the demand for many digital professionals in the EU is foreseen to grow in the medium to long term, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour markets are fully absorbed.

Evidence in this report also shows that digital jobs require a heterogeneous mix of technical and high-level cognitive skills. Results show, for instance, that database management skills are demanded by employers along with several other data-related and data analytics skills. Similarly, the analysis uncovers recent trends in the skill demands of digital occupations such as the increasing relevance of open source platforms and the knowledge of programming languages such as Java.

More generally, results show that advanced data analysis skills such as the knowledge of machine learning, data science and data visualisation are at the core of the development and adoption of a variety of different digital technologies that leverage the use of the available digital data.

Evidence in this report also confirms the strong increase in the demand for social media skills in labour markets as a whole and not only in occupations that are digital, suggesting that an increasing number of businesses are now hiring (or searching for) workers with skills in the area of social media management.

Finally, this report uses OJPs to identify the skill similarities between occupations and to determine what type of retraining would be needed to make a career transition from occupations whose employment projections are negative to others that are instead expected to grow in the future and that are digital in nature.

Results show, for instance, that workers in “traditional” jobs such as advertising sales agents could retrain to become digital marketing specialists by acquiring training in the area of web analytics, online marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), copywriting and related technical skills such as Semrush. Other retraining pathway examples are provided in the report.

The evidence contained in this report is key for governments to design targeted retraining and upskilling policies and for workers to benefit from the digital transition, thus supporting countries and individuals to thrive in future labour markets.

Disclaimers

This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Member countries of the OECD.

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

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