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Talent Tensions Ahead: A CEO Briefing

Technological advances, industrialization and liberalized trade have created a staggering 900 million non-farm jobs in developing countries since 1980, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. As global companies have tapped (and helped fuel the growth of) low-cost labor sources, they also have created high-wage jobs for more than 50 million high-skill workers, while boosting productivity in developed and emerging markets alike.

This virtuous cycle appears to be reaching its limits, however, and there is a growing sense that something has gone wrong with the machinery that, for decades, delivered GDP growth, higher productivity, rising wages and better standards of living. Indeed, new research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that by 2020, the world could have 40 million too few college-educated workers and that developing economies may face a shortfall of 45 million workers with secondary-school educations and vocational training. In advanced economies, up to 95 million workers could lack the skills needed for employment.

Senior executives and policy makers should study these imbalances closely because together they outline where dangers and opportunities will arise, and they provide a framework that business leaders and policy makers can use to guide their decisions. In this article, we’ll look at the most significant labor imbalances by geography and then discuss the moves companies can begin making now to prepare for the talent tensions to come.

Read the full report, “Talent tensions ahead: A CEO briefing,” by McKensey & Co.

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