The COVID-19 pandemic quickened the pace of digital development around the world, as everything from meetings to movie premiers went online. That may sound like a silver lining. For tens of millions of workers, it's not.

They don't have the skills to compete. They're the bookkeepers, the data-entry clerks, the executive secretaries, looking for work in a new economy in which the people getting hired have titles like “cloud engineer” or “growth hacker” on their resumes. Without a concerted effort to retrain them, researchers from RAND Europe found, they are likely to be left behind.

And not just them. The cost of that growing skills gap will be measured in trillions of dollars, and it will fall most heavily on places that don't have reliable digital infrastructure, such as internet access, or widespread fluency in digital skills. As the world economy struggles to its feet after the knockdown blow of COVID-19, that skills gap threatens to keep pushing it down.

“There are just not enough people with the right digital skills to enable the transformation that companies are seeking,” said Salil Gunashekar, a research leader and associate director at RAND Europe, who focuses on science and technology policy.

Sometime in the next few years, the world will pass an important milestone. The number of hours worked by machines will equal the number of hours worked by humans. A recent survey by Salesforce found that three-quarters of the world's workers feel unprepared for the jobs they might find on the other side of that milestone.

Read the full article about the digital skills gap at RAND Corporation.