5. The skill profiles and the competences of workers in digital occupations

The rapid pace of the digital transformation is not only leading to a significant increase in the demand for professionals working in the digital world (see Chapter 4) but it is also changing the way the labour market functions and the skills that are required to perform jobs and tasks within those occupations. In order to adapt to these changes, businesses require the workforce to acquire and maintain adequate digital skills throughout their life course (OECD, 2021[1]). This is especially true in occupations like the digital ones, where tasks are changing at an even faster pace than those in the rest of the economy, and where new technologies are constantly adopted in productive processes and services.

Against this backdrop, a key challenge for policy makers and firms is that of clearly identifying the digital skill profiles of occupations that are in high demand so as to ensure that the labour force is well-prepared1 for jobs where the use of technology is becoming increasingly central.

Up until now, the availability of granular information on skill demands in digital occupations was scarce and the information available at a relatively high-level of aggregation. Previous skills studies, for instance, were mostly based on the use of surveys collected with significant lags and aggregated up into broad skill categories whose use to create skill profiles was fairly high-level.

The use of the information contained in online job postings for labour market intelligence offers now the possibility to exploit the rich skills information of millions of job postings to understand companies’ current needs in terms of tasks and skills at a very disaggregated level.

This chapter leverages the information contained in OJPs and applies machine learning techniques to identify the skill profiles (i.e. the most relevant skills) of the digital occupations covered in this report.

The remainder of this chapter presents the skill profiles of digital occupations showing the top five most relevant skills and knowledge areas associated with these occupations, which are broken down into the four occupational groups as shown earlier in Figure 4.1 of Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 has shown the significant increase in the number of job postings published online for computer and data analysts’ occupations. From a skill demands’ stand point, computer occupations such as data engineers, data and computer scientists, data mining analysts or system analysts share a variety of digital skill requirements that are, in turn, in high demand.

The analysis of OJPs shows, for instance, that data warehousing skills (i.e. the process of collecting and managing data from different sources to provide meaningful business analyses) are very relevant in job postings for data mining analysts and data engineers in Canada, as well as in the United States.

Data warehousing skills are central to a wide variety of businesses, as the collection of raw data is increasing significantly across all sectors and firms need to find solutions to store and analyse those data to plan marketing strategies, production processes and for efficient use of internal resources. The ability of managing large quantities of data is used in diverse areas, from the health care sector (e.g. by creating reports about patients or predict the results of a certain treatment) to the aeronautic industry (e.g. by examining the profitability of the different routes offered). Database management systems skills, similarly to data warehousing skills, are very relevant for database designers and administrators. Results from OJPs show these skills being very relevant in virtually all EU countries covered in this study and in particular in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, where they are amongst the top 5 skills by relevance in fast growing occupations such as database designers and administrators.

Occupations and jobs do, however, require a rather heterogeneous mix of skills to be performed and online job postings highlight how skills, knowledge types and technologies actually merge in the overall skills demands of employers.

Results show, for instance, that database management and warehousing skills are required jointly with several other data-related and data-analytics skills in computer occupations. An interesting example is that of the skills demands in the area of cloud technologies which are tightly linked to database management tasks and show prominently as relevant skills in digital occupations (see Box 5.1).

The ability to analyse big data with new statistical tools also plays a central role in a variety of computer-related occupations across countries. The words “big data” usually refer to large, complex datasets, mostly arising from new and unstructured data sources such as those collected by smartphones, mobile applications as well as from interconnected devices used in production. Compared to traditional data, big data are more voluminous, implying that specific software and statistical methods need to be used to analyse them. Results from OJPs show that machine learning and artificial intelligence are the key complementary skills to big data and that they are highly relevant in jobs where the knowledge of big data is also important such as computer and data analysis occupations.

An emerging trend in the skill demands of digital occupations is also the increasing relevance of open source platforms and software libraries such as Tensorflow. OJPs’ data show that Tensorflow (an open-source platform that allows to operate machine learning and artificial intelligence in a variety of different contexts), is particularly relevant for computer scientists and data scientists in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Tensorflow was originally developed by Google and contains a number of tools, libraries and community resources that allow users to build machine learning-powered applications used in most digital services today.

Within the group of computer occupations, particular attention should be paid to cyber / information security engineers / analysts who require a rather specific skill bundle that sets them apart from most of the other computer occupations. Data from online job postings reveals, for instance, that employers in Canada, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States seek cybersecurity professionals with a strong knowledge of information security and network security, as well as of IT management. Along with these very specific technical skills, cybersecurity professionals are also expected to know standards, guidelines and best practices to manage cybersecurity risks in firms and organisations such as, for instance, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (a set of guidelines published by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for mitigating an organisation’s cybersecurity risks by providing a taxonomy on cybersecurity outcomes and a methodology to assess and manage them).2

Analysis of the information contained in OJPs shows that a number of occupations in the area of software development and programming requires the knowledge of Java. Java is a general-purpose programming language and computing platform that allows users to run code on all platforms that support Java without needing to recompile the code. Results show that the knowledge of Java is particularly relevant for software developers and programmers in Germany, where Java lies within the top 5 most demanded skills for web and multimedia developers, applications programmers and software developers. Similarly, knowledge of Java is key for software developers / engineers and computer programmers in Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as computer systems engineers and web developers. In Singapore, on top of software developers/ engineers, the usage of Java is also within the top 5 most relevant skills for UI / UX designers / developers, computer programmers, computer systems engineers / architects.

In addition to produce code and programming, the tasks of software developers also include the design of software systems. In practice, most software developers build targeted codes and scripts to achieve a specific objective which, in complex systems and organisations, can be difficult to communicate to other co-workers and to manage practically. In this context, the usage of Unified Modelling Language (UML) is becoming increasingly relevant. ULM is “a standardised modelling language consisting of an integrated set of diagrams, developed to help system and software developers for specifying, visualizing, constructing, and documenting the artefacts of software systems, as well as for business modelling and other non-software systems(Visual Paradigm, n.d.[2]). The analysis of OJPs shows that the knowledge of UML is key to the tasks of software engineers across EU countries and it is particularly relevant in occupations such as applications programmers. Among the different UML-related software, the knowledge of Middleware (a software that allows communication and data management in distributed applications, facilitating programmers or software developers the task of implementing communication input or output to focus on the specific purpose of their application) shows up with much relevance in online job postings for software developers jobs in Canada, United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore.

Recent studies (OECD, 2021[3]) have also highlighted the role that automation is already playing across labour markets. Digital occupations are very much linked to the design and implementation of automation solutions. Data from OJPs shows that the knowledge of computer-aided engineering (CAE) (i.e. computer software to simulate performance with the aim of improving product designs or aid in the resolution of engineering problems) is required for electronics engineers and ICT operations technicians in several EU labour markets (Belgium and Germany for instance). The knowledge of CAE is also usually required along with skills in technical drawing software as well as with knowledge of automation technologies and the internet of things (IoT).

Interestingly, for a subset of software-related occupations (i.e. web designers), some business and sales-related skills are emerging as being very important. In the United States, for instance, web developers are typically required to know about online advertising and online marketing. Web analytics are also very relevant to web designers in Singapore as well as knowledge of copywriting in Canada. Results seems to suggest that the job of web designers is evolving in the direction of mixing different skill sets and tasks whose only part are related to programming and technical, while others relate to the ability of the web designer of creating a marketable final product for its customers.

For the Anglophone countries covered in this study, where occupational and skill data is more disaggregated than for the EU, the information in OJPs allows to identify the most relevant skills for UI / UX designers / developers directly. In the United States, for instance, UI/UX designers and developers are required to have strong knowledge of user research (i.e. the systematic study of target users and their requirements with the aim of adding realistic contexts and insights to design processes). This skill is usually sought along with knowledge of web analytics (the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of web data to understand and optimise web usage) and version control (the ability to manage changes to computer programs, documents, large web sites, or other collections of information).

The digital transition involves a series of different job roles, some of which carry out mid to lower-skill digital tasks that are, nonetheless, key for IT systems to work effectively. Amongst those professionals, there are those who work on the technical aspects of the IT infrastructure, such as web technicians and computer support specialists and operators and others that instead are employed in the more mechanical tasks of data ingestion and control, such as the data entry clerks.

While most digital occupations are usually high-skilled ones and require extensive expertise, some digital professions involve a certain degree of routine tasks and are lower skilled. Data entry clerks is one of those examples. Data clerks do interact with digital technologies but they do so in a routine-based and sometime repetitive manner. Among the tasks of data entry clerk there is the transferring of data from paper formats into computer files or database systems. Data entry clerk do usually type in data provided directly from customers and create spreadsheets with large numbers of figures.

As of now, the analysis of the OJPs shows that the most relevant skills for data entry clerks are, as expected, of a very different nature compared to the more technical (non-routine) ones analysed up until now. For instance, the ability to typing effectively is a very relevant skill for data entry clerks in Canada and the United Kingdom, along with dictation.

As new technologies start to automatise some of these tasks, jobs for data entry clerks may either decline in volume3 or radically change the nature of some of the tasks that are currently carried out by those employed in these occupations. Recent developments in speech recognition technologies already allow individuals to use note-taking software that is more accurate and rapid than well-trained humans taking dictation. This is not to say that “note-taking” skills will disappear immediately. In the short term, Word processors and typists will probably need to learn how to interact with machines and software programmes to “teach” them new terms and flag the most difficult words. As a confirmation of this, data from OJPs in Singapore shows that data entry clerks are required to manage specific software, such as MYOB (accounting software). Sage 100 (business management software) is instead key in the United States, or SAP R/3 in France and the Netherlands. In the EU, data show that Microsoft Excel (in the United Kingdom), Microsoft Dynamics (in Belgium) and Microsoft Office (in Spain) are still key for data entry clerks and very much sought by employers for those job roles.

Analysis of OJPs shows that web technicians in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are widely required to design User Interfaces (UIs) which are needed for final users to operate complex IT systems. The goal of UIs is to make the interaction between human users and computers, websites or applications easy and intuitive, ensuring that users require minimum effort to receive the maximum desired outcome. Interestingly, the ability to design UI is also relevant in other occupations related to software development and programming, such as web and multimedia developers (in France and the Netherlands) or applications programmers (in Germany). Those latter occupations are indeed relatively high-skill, showing how certain skill requirements do bridge between routine and more high-level cognitive skills.

As digital tools and technologies are increasingly adopted by businesses and organisations, managerial positions geared towards the supervision of digital processes (and of teams devoted to operate digital technologies) are also on the rise in different organisations and firms.

When looking at skill profiles, it is well known that managerial positions require a wide variety of soft skills. Digital managers are not the exception, despite mixing those skills with others that are much more technical in nature. The analysis of OJPs shows, for instance, that Chief Information Officers / directors of IT and ICT services managers are usually called to have managerial skills (e.g. manage a team) and strategic thinking. More in detail, IT management skills (i.e. the ability to manage the Information Technology resources of a firm in accordance with its needs and priorities) and agile management (i.e. practices that include requirements discovery and solutions improvement through the collaborative effort of self-organising and cross-functional teams) or Waterfall Development Process (i.e. the sequential development process that flows like a waterfall through all phases of a project such as analysis, design, development, and testing) are very relevant for Chief Information Officers.

Interestingly, in addition to those already mentioned, in the United States, Chief Information Officers are also increasingly required to have knowledge of artificial intelligence, while in Germany, they are widely required knowledge of supply chain principles. In Singapore, knowledge of intellectual property rights is also relevant for Chief Information Officers while in Canada, they are required to be able to work on effective business solutions.

Human resources managers fall within the broader group of managerial occupations that are becoming increasingly digital. Similarly to Chief Information Officers, human resources managers are required to have soft skills such as being able to manage “employee relations”. In the European countries analysed, human resources managers are expected to be able to build business relationships, make improvements to work activities as well as manage personnel.

Beyond soft skills, other more technical skills are relevant for human resources managers. In the United States, for instance, they are expected to know UltiPro Payroll, a cloud-based payroll service, which automates the payroll of a company’s workforce.

Marketing occupations are also becoming increasingly digital. Marketing specialists and advertising and marketing professionals are expected to know about online marketing, online advertising or web analytics. In the United Kingdom and the United States, OJPs show that the knowledge of marketing automation solutions such as Pardot is becoming increasingly important, as well as knowledge of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).


[4] Government of Canada (n.d.), Canadian Occupational Protection System, https://occupations.esdc.gc.ca/sppc-cops/content.jsp?cid=occupationdatasearch&lang=en.

[3] OECD (2021), OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5a700c4b-en.

[1] OECD (2021), OECD Skills Outlook 2021: Learning for Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/0ae365b4-en.

[5] US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), “Projections overview and highlights 2019-29”, Monthly Labor Review, https://www.bls.gov/mlr/2020/article/projections-overview-and-highlights-2019-29.htm.

[2] Visual Paradigm (n.d.), What is Unified Modeling Language (UML)?, https://www.visual-paradigm.com/guide/uml-unified-modeling-language/what-is-uml/.


← 1. More broadly, there are important concerns as to the way technological change might impact on the low skilled or those with poor digital skills (OECD, 2021[3]).

← 2. The guide feeds from existing standards, guidelines and practices.

← 3. Jobs for data entry clerks and Word processors and typists are also expected to decline by 20% and 36% in Canada (by 2028) and the United States (by 2029) respectively. Source: (Government of Canada, n.d.[4]) and (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020[5]).

Metadata, Legal and Rights

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. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.