We Surveyed Attitudes to Digitalization Among Different Age Groups in 7 Countries

ByDr. René Arnold

March 24, 2023

Dr. René Arnold

The European Commission (EC) set out ambitious goals for 2030 in its Digital Decade Communication.

Among other objectives, it wants at least 80% of adults in possession of at least basic digital skills by 2030, which in turn will of course critically influence if and how digitalization can unleash its productivity-boosting potential.

Alongside various Huawei initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills among young people in Europe and globally, we wanted to understand how different age groups deal with digitalization and the impact of the digital world in terms of how they respond.

The survey involved more than 21,000 respondents from seven countries:

  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • UK
  • US

Key findings

Upskilling: Demographic change poses a great challenge for most developed economies. While digitalization can cushion some of its adverse effects through automation and productivity upgrades, recent evidence points to the need of upskilling the labor force to reap the full benefits of digitalization.

The US leads: The US labor force has a obvious advantage in terms of digital skills over Europe and China. In the US, early career (late 20s) workers see digital skills as their strongest skills. In Europe and China, digital skills never register as the top skills among the eight skillsets tested in the survey. They need to close this gap by strategically upskilling their workforce.

Age gap: Just like in the US and China, Europe must close the digital skills gap between young and old workers. Intergenerational collaboration is a promising approach identified by this survey to close this gap. Already today, 29% of the European workforce aged 55+ have learned digital skills from colleagues at least 10 years younger than themselves.

Already today, 29% of the European workforce aged 55+ have learned digital skills from colleagues at least 10 years younger than themselves.

Age-diverse Europe: As Europe has particularly age-diverse workplaces compared to China and the US, intergenerational knowledge exchange is more likely to happen. Digitalization of workplaces can further boost intergenerational knowledge exchange. Highly digitalized firms benefit from a ~20% increase in both knowledge giving and receiving over less digitalized firms.

Highly digitalized firms benefit from a ~20% increase in both knowledge giving and receiving over less digitalized firms.

Touchy & virtual: This survey underlines that advanced (touch-centric) and virtual interfaces (voice and gesture inputs) work well with people of all age groups. As they gain more traction, we need to reconsider how we conceptualize and measure digital skills.

Robotic friends or frenemies? In its stance to increase automation and productivity, Europe needs to be mindful of attitudes towards advanced tech like robots varying across age groups and regions. China benefits from very positive attitudes towards robots, whereas respondents in Europe and US look less favorably at them. We should better understand such differences in order to ensure we reap benefits from digitalization, particularly when it comes to productivity and upskilling.

In the second post in this series, we’ll present the statistics of the survey, which will include:

  • The challenge of demographic change
  • Europe needs to improve its young digital talent pool
  • Intergenerational collaboration to close the digital skills gap
  • More age diversity spells more collaboration opportunity
  • Digitalization in the workplace boosts knowledge exchange
  • Advanced and virtual interfaces work well for older users
  • Attitudes to robots across age groups

Further reading

About the study

For the purpose of the study, we worked with Prof. Dr. Anna Schneider (lead), Prof. Dr. Ulrike Fasbender, and Prof. Dr. Fabiola Gerpott to develop a survey to cover the digital skills of the future and today, as well as knowledge exchange across generations in the workplace as part of a uniquely large research project.

The data set received by Huawei contained anonymized data only. Huawei is neither a data controller nor data processor of respondents’ personal data.


Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

Leave a Comment

Posted in Corporate Posted in Corporate
Published by

Dr. René Arnold

Vice President, Public Affairs Strategy, Huawei Technologies Before joining Huawei, René worked in high-profile think tanks in Germany (German Economic Institute and WIK) and Brussels (Bruegel) where his research focused on the digital economy, Internet policy, and impact assessments of regulatory frameworks. He has (co-)authored more than 100 conference papers, journal articles, and white papers. He is a frequent speaker at both academic and industry events, including the ITU economic and industry round table, the Digital Summit of the German government, and the research committee of the Munich Circle.

View all posts >

Subscribe