StepStone highlights: long-term global "labor shortage" is underestimated

Duesseldorf, Lebanon, N.H., London, 11/05/2022

  • U.N. figures are alarming: by 2030, there will be around 30 million fewer people in the world's five key industrialized nations who are capable of working.
  • With fewer workers in the future, a structural slowdown in economic growth looms, with serious consequences for innovation and prosperity.
  • Thegeneral public is largely unaware of this issue, as an international study by the StepStone Group shows.
  • StepStone Group CEO: "Alongside the climate crisis, the threat of labor shortage is the greatest economic and societal challenge of the 21st century. Now is time for us to take action."

In Germany, this development is particularly serious: In 30 years, a full 15 percent fewer people will be available to the labor market. And: Three out of four corporate decision-makers still underestimate this development. These insights come from a global study by the StepStone Group, for which the German recruiting platform StepStone.de, the British job platform Totaljobs and the US technology provider Appcast surveyed a total of 20,000 people, including around 1,500 corporate decision-makers.

"A new era is beginning in the labor market. For the first time in recent history, the number of people in the workforce will fall rather than rise. This has serious consequences for our economy and the standard of living of every individual," says StepStone CEO Sebastian Dettmers. "We all need to be much louder about this. And work together at full speed on solutions to safeguard our prosperity.”

Eight out of ten people worldwide misjudge threat

Demographic change has long been a topic of discussion among experts. Nevertheless, the public is largely unaware of how dramatic the development is. In fact, 80 percent of those surveyed worldwide misjudge the development of the shrinking workforce. Even among corporate decision-makers, just a quarter are aware of what lies ahead for the economy and society. But once they are aware of the trend, a broad majority of almost 70 percent see this as a clear problem and see a need for action.

"Alongside the climate crisis, the threat of labor shortage is the greatest economic and societal challenge of the 21st century. We want to make the threat visible and thus prevent labor shortage from catching us unprepared. We can still act," says Dettmers.

Numerous paths exist to navigate labor shortage – partly controversial

If fewer people are going to be working in the future, solutions will be needed to compensate - for example, by automating more and more tasks and processes. 64 percent of respondents worldwide believe this is an effective solution. The situation is different when a higher retirement age is proposed as a solution: Only 46 percent of people welcome this path. Immigration and integration of foreign workers, on the other hand, offers new opportunities and is clearly supported by more than half of respondents worldwide.

"Another key is to ensure greater equality in global labor markets," says Dettmers. "There has long been no room for discrimination or inequality of opportunity in job markets. In times of labor shortage, there's a new component: we simply can't afford to disadvantage people and leave their potential untapped."

About the survey

The global labor market is experiencing a turning point. The age of “unempolyeement” is beginning. This is shown, among other things, by the UN forecasts on population development. With this international study, the StepStone Group wants to create awareness for the coming developments and possible options for action. For this purpose, StepStone conducted a survey among around 20,000 workers in the USA, the UK, Germany and China in the period from December 2021 to January 2022. The aim was to decode whether the demographic challenge has reached people's consciousness, how possible solutions are assessed, and what differences there are in four of the world's five most important economies. For more information: https://www.stepstone.com/en/insights/the-great-unemployeement/

About the figures on population development

Population figures are from the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects - official United Nations population estimates and projections prepared by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019, Online Edition. Rev. 1.