In advanced and emerging economies alike, individuals are struggling to find work and build careers that make use of their skills and capabilities. The strains in global labor markets have been worsening for decades, and the challenges have been magnified in the aftermath of the global recession. In many countries, concerns about employment have been exacerbated by long-term trends of stagnant wage growth and automation. But at the same time, there has been a constant refrain from employers about the difficulties of finding talent with the right skills. The growing use of online talent platforms may begin to address these problems—and even to swing the pendulum slightly in favor of workers by empowering them with broader choices, more mobility, and more flexibility. These tools are fundamentally altering the way individuals go about searching for work and the way many employers approach hiring.
The power of a digital platform is not always apparent until it reaches a certain critical mass. Online talent platforms appear to be approaching exactly that sort of tipping point. As these platforms rapidly expand the size of their user networks and the volume of data they can synthesize, the cumulative benefits are growing larger. We believe there is potential for online talent platforms to create real macroeconomic impact in the years ahead—and as these technologies continue to evolve, they may change the world of work in ways that we can only begin to imagine today. This research aims to build a deeper understanding of how these platforms can affect labor markets, although it does not attempt to address the many broader issues affecting employment prospects, including wage stagnation, automation, and aggregate demand.