5 reasons healthcare will withstand the onslaught of ‘occupational shift’

Lines of work that shed staff en masse during the COVID pandemic will probably continue shrinking between now and the end of the decade.

These occupations—vulnerable mainly to automation, secondarily to trends like “gig” employment—currently constitute almost three-quarters of the U.S. labor force.

However, healthcare is among the fields likely to not only hold its own over the next six or so years but actually add jobs.

So forecasts the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), which projects fewer than 1 million occupational shifts out of healthcare and into other lines of work.

By contrast, food services, customer service and sales, office support and production work could account for almost 10 million of the 12 million occupational shifts MGI expects to see over the next six or so years.

The consulting giant lays out these and other projections in a new report, “Generative AI and the Future of Work in America.”

Other key workforce changes headed for healthcare as MGI sees it:

  1. An aging population will need more healthcare workers in multiple roles. Healthcare jobs—along with those in business and legal professions, management, transportation and STEM—were resilient during the pandemic and are poised for continued growth. Meanwhile the continuing digitization of the economy will drive openings for tech workers into every sector, including healthcare.
  2. Healthcare will likely see the largest job gains across all industries and sectors. Indeed, healthcare has almost 2 million unfilled openings right now. McKinsey estimates the U.S. will need 2 million more healthcare professionals and 3.5 million more health aides, health technicians and wellness workers.
  3. Like banking, insurance and pharmaceuticals, healthcare is undertaking digital transformation projects on a mass scale. All these industries are going to need highly skilled workers in IT and related fields.
  4. The overall labor market will still need plenty of workers whose main job setting isn’t a computer workstation. As the report authors put it: “[P]hysical work is not going away. It may still account for [nearly] 31% of time spent, driven by growth in sectors such as transportation services, construction and healthcare.”
  5. The two fastest-growing occupations through the end of this decade will be nurses and home healthcare aides. The latter, like childcare workers, may be tough to find, as “people have been leaving these types of jobs in droves,” MGI reports. “Meeting these growing needs will likely hinge on upgrading the quality of what are today typically low-paying jobs with little security or advancement opportunities.”

Also of note, albeit across all industries and sectors:

As up to 12 million people leave shrinking occupations, the economy could reweight toward higher-wage jobs. “Workers in lower-wage jobs are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in highest-wage positions, and most will need additional skills to do so successfully,” MGI reports, adding that women are 1.5 times more likely to need to move into new occupations than men.

The United States will need workforce development on a far larger scale as well as more expansive hiring approaches from employers. MGI: “Employers will need to hire for skills and competencies rather than credentials, recruit from overlooked populations (such as rural workers and people with disabilities) and deliver training that keeps pace with evolving needs.”

Read the rest and/or download the full report here.

Dave Pearson

Dave P. has worked in journalism, marketing and public relations for more than 30 years, frequently concentrating on hospitals, healthcare technology and Catholic communications. He has also specialized in fundraising communications, ghostwriting for CEOs of local, national and global charities, nonprofits and foundations.

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