An entire generation is threatened by a widening inequity gap with fears many will fail to see any benefits from a future global recovery.
Today the World Economic Forum warned when it comes to access to technology and digital skills, the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” risks widening and challenging social cohesion.
As it launched its annual Global Risks Report 2021 it added the likelihood is that the younger generation across the world will be the most heavily impacted and the inequality will last at least a decade.
Financial, digital and reputational pressures resulting from COVID-19 also threaten to leave behind many companies and their workforces in the markets of the future, warned the report.
“While these potential disparities could cause societal fragmentation for states, an increasingly tense and fragile geopolitical outlook will also hinder the global recovery if mid-sized powers lack a seat at the global table,” added the WEF.
The annual report contains an overview of “frontier risks” – nine high-impact, low-probability events drawn from expert foresight exercises – including geomagnetic disruption, accidental wars and exploitation of brain-machine interfaces.
Once again, environmental risks dominate by impact and likelihood, looking ahead towards the next decade. Societal fractures, uncertainty and anxiety will make it more difficult to achieve the coordination needed to address the planet’s continued degradation.
For the first time, the report also rates risks according to when respondents perceive they will pose a critical threat to the world. Clear and present dangers (0-2 years) reveal concern about lives and livelihoods – among them infectious diseases, employment crises, digital inequality and youth disillusionment. In the medium-term (3-5 years), respondents believe the world will be threatened by knock-on economic and technological risks, which may take several years to materialise – such as asset bubble bursts, IT infrastructure breakdown, price instability and debt crises. Existential threats (5-10 years) – weapons of mass destruction, state collapse, biodiversity loss and adverse technological advances – dominate long-term concerns.
Technology will disrupt the planet bringing benefits but also challenges for the world’s workforce.
“The acceleration of the digital transformation promises large benefits, such as for example the creation of almost 100 million new jobs by 2025. At the same time however, digitalisation may displace some 85 million jobs, and since 60% of adults still lack basic digital skills the risk is the deepening of existing inequalities,” warned Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group. “The biggest long-term risk remains a failure to act on climate change. There is no vaccine against climate risks, so post-pandemic recovery plans must focus on growth aligning with sustainability agendas to build back better.”