People employed in legal, social and cultural occupations are engaged in a wide variety of activities relating to law, social sciences, religion, arts and entertainment.
- Around 11.3 million people were employed in legal, social and cultural occupations in 2018. Employment in the occupation increased by around 20 per cent between 2006 and 2018 (25 per cent in legal, social and cultural professionals and 15 per cent amongst associate professionals).
- Employment in the occupations is projected to grow by around 29 per cent over the period 2018 to 2030. With employment in legal, social and cultural professionals projected to increase by 17 per cent and that in associate professionals by around 42 per cent (although because of low sample sizes in many countries, this percentage must be treated with caution).
- In total, an additional 3.3 million jobs will be created in the occupation between 2018 and 2030.
- The new jobs that will be created under-estimate the overall level of employment demand in legal and social occupations. Between 2018 and 2030 a projected 6.4 million people are estimated to leave their jobs in legal, social and cultural services. To meet the projected growth in demand over the same period and replace those workers who will have left the occupation, 9.7 million job openings will need to be filled.
- In the workplace, creativity, resolution, autonomy, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks and skills in legal, social and cultural occupations.
- Many jobs in this occupation are dependent on public financing, not just in public services sectors, but in arts and entertainment as well.
- People who work as legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals tend to be highly qualified. This is not expected to change much in the period 2018 to 2030. In 2018, 65 per cent of the workforce held high-level qualifications and this is expected to increase to 69 per cent by 2030. Those with medium level qualifications accounted for 29 per cent of employment in 2018 and this is expected to fall to 26 per cent in 2030.
Tasks and skills
People employed in legal, social and cultural occupations1 are engaged in a wide variety of activities related to law, social sciences, religion, arts and entertainment. They may conduct research; apply knowledge relating to the law and wide range of social sciences, arts and entertainment. This analytical highlight discusses trends and developments in employment and skills both of professionals and associate professionals. Relevant professions include: lawyers, librarians, archivists and curators, economists, journalists, priests, etc. At the associate professional level, people are engaged in the practical application of knowledge and skills in jobs such as paralegals, community workers, chefs, photographers, but also sport coaches and athletes.
According to Eurofound's Job Monitor, creativity, resolution, autonomy, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks and skills in legal, social and cultural occupations.
Figure 1: Importance of tasks and skills in legal, social and cultural occupations
Note: The importance of tasks and skills is measured on 0-1 scale, where 0 means least important and 1 means most important.
What are the trends for the future? 2
The employment level of legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals is expected to grow by 29 per cent between 2018 and 2030. This follows the 20 per cent growth observed over the period 2006 to 2018. Between 2018 and 2030 it is estimated that there will be an additional 3.3 million jobs created in legal, social and cultural professional and associate professional occupations. Growth will be lower in legal, social and cultural professionals (17 per cent) than in associate professionals (42 per cent – although, because of low sample sizes in many countries - indicated by * symbol - this percentage must be treated with caution).
Figure 2: Future employment growth of legal, social and cultural occupations in analysed European countries (2018-2030, in %)
A projected 6.4 million people are projected to leave the occupation between 2018 and 2030. These people will need to be replaced 3, When they are added to the projected 3.3 million new jobs that will be created, it is apparent that, between 2018 and 2030, around 9.7 million job openings will need to be filled.
Figure 3: Future job openings of legal, social and cultural occupations
In the future it is likely that people working as legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals will be increasingly highly qualified. With regards to education level, in 2018, most legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals held high-level qualifications (65 per cent) and this is expected to increase slightly over the period to 2030 (to 69 per cent).
Employment in these occupational groups is spread across many sectors. Public service sectors, e.g. public administration, health and social care and education represent more than two-fifths of their total employment. An additional quarter of their employment is in the arts and legal, accounting and consulting activities.
Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
Legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals perform a number of relatively distinct jobs, which will be affected in very different ways by drivers of change in the economy. Nonetheless, it is possible to identify patterns of change affecting this group of occupations.
- Technology advancements will affect the content of jobs in this occupational group. For example, algorithms are increasingly substituting for tasks performed by paralegals, contract and patent lawyers. Law firms make use of systems that can scan thousands of legal briefs and precedents to perform document review and to assist in pre-trial research 4. However, automation is not only affecting jobs with high routine rate, but “blue-collar” ones as wells, such as lawyers 5.
Disruptive Innovations in Legal Services 6
Despite traditional resistance to change in legal professions, pro-competitive “disruptive” innovations are beginning to transform legal services and the manner in which they are delivered. Online service delivery is allowing both legal professionals and unlicensed providers to serve clients remotely while taking advantage of the scalability of digital platforms. In addition, ranking and review information regarding legal professionals is becoming increasingly accessible, and is allowing clients to assess the quality of professionals before retaining them – a previously difficult proposition. Furthermore, the unbundling of services, partially driven by increasing client awareness and fee pressure, is transforming the distribution of tasks in legal services and ending traditional “black box” models of service delivery. As a result, standardised activities are being outsourced to low-cost providers (including unlicensed ones), and new billing models are being introduced. Finally, automation is changing the nature, and volume, of tasks that legal professionals perform. Although the extent to which the work of legal professions can be automated is subject to debate, automated systems have been introduced which offer new capabilities and, in at least some instances, improved performance relative to legal professionals.
- Similarly, technological developments affect jobs of those involved in storing and retrieving information (like librarians and archivists), requiring them to have new ICT skills. Digitalization also affects jobs related to audiovisual production which leads to an ever-increasing demand for related skills 7; as well as fitness and recreation instructors. The fitness sector in Europe is growing very fast 8. Together with expected further growth of demand of fitness instructors, the digitalization and ICT is a very strong driver of change 9, as it offers new ways of fitness services delivery.
- Many jobs in this occupation are dependent on public financing, not just in public services sectors, but in arts and entertainment as well. As public budgets will continue to be strained, the demand for professional and associate professionals involved in the delivery of public services (e.g. social workers) or in roles which are dependent upon public funding (e.g. creative and performing artists) will be affected. Greater cost-effectiveness 10 may negatively impact employment prospects for this occupation, especially at associate professional level.
- For persons employed in the arts and entertainment industry, the challenge of insufficient funding and high competition lead to more precarious job options; in turn, people working in this industry are forced to adopt the ‘multi-activity’ model: seek multiple jobs in the same or other sectors. In terms of skills, such employment models demand non-technical skills, such as self-management 11.
- Many jobs in this occupation are related to analytical and research work in social science and also to writing books and/or contributing to newspapers and the media. Here the ICT skills will be once again of ever-increasing importance, because of growing volume of data and information available online. However with this the challenge of valuing quality and relevance of such information arises. The skills related to critical and analytical thinking will be demanded even more.
- Demographic change and the ageing population in the EU will create an increased demand for social care professionals and associate professionals. But these jobs are likely to change in response to both a need to gain efficiencies resulting from pressures on public expenditure, and also from improvements in service delivery. For example, there is a trend for more care to be delivered in the home by teams of different types of care professionals; working in inter-disciplinary teams will require skills related to a variety of medical, caring and IT disciplines (e.g. where medical devices are in the home and monitored remotely) 12.
- Globalisation creates a range of impacts, such as a demand for international legal professionals who are engaged in cross-border legal cases and who therefore need a second or third foreign language capacity. In a more inter-connected world, journalists may be increasingly working on cross-border issues with their counterparts in other countries, and librarians / archivists will increasingly need to access data held abroad.
- Environmental regulation has the impact of creating new fields of regulation that lawyers and paralegals need to be able to master, but also creates a demand for skills that will allow people in this occupation to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Risk of Automation: As a part of its Digitalisation and future of work project, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Legal, social and cultural professionals and associate professionals are reportedly an occupation with very low risk of automation.
How can these skill needs be met?
Many professional occupations in this group are regulated and the relevant professional bodies have a role to play in ensuring that individuals are appropriately skilled in their jobs. Regulation can play an important role in specifying the competences required of a practitioner in, for example, the legal profession. There are also various networks in place that allow good practice to be shared between professionals and associate professionals – a community of practice (e.g. European Social Network). 13
Ensuring the continuous professional development of existing workers is a common challenge. Depending on the specific sub-occupation, the challenge is greater for professionals that are to a great extent self-employed (e.g. lawyers) or freelancers (e.g. journalists).
All web-links were last accessed December 2nd, 2019.
 Defined as ILO ISCO 08 groups 26 legal, social and cultural professionals and 34 legal, social, cultural and related associate professionals. ILO (2012) International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO-08.
 The need to replace workers leaving a profession for various reasons, such as retirement, is referred to as replacement demand. For more information on replacement demand and how it drives employment across sectors, can be found on the Skills Panorama here.
 Frey, B C & Osborne, M 2015, Technology at work. The Future of Innovation and Employment, Oxford Martin School and Citi.
 Weller, C 2016, “The world's first artificially intelligent lawyer was just hired at a law firm”, Tech insider, 16 May 2016, accessed 6 June 2016.
 OECD 2016, Protecting and Promoting Competition in Response to “Disruptive” Innovations in Legal Services.
 European Social Network 2015, Public social services in crisis: challenges and responses.
European Risk Observatory 2014, Current and emerging issues in the healthcare sector, including home and community care.