How job automation will impact Australia

While a sharp decline in employment is 'unlikely', Australians need to transition into roles of the future

How job automation will impact Australia

More than a third of jobs (36%) in Australia face a significant or high risk of being automated in the next 15 to 20 years, according to the OECD’s Employment Outlook 2019.

“While this is less than the OECD average (46%), it means that a sizeable share of adults will need to upskill or retrain to meet the needs of future jobs,” the report suggested.

Twenty-five per cent of Australian workers today are hired as casuals; half of this segment report having no guaranteed work hours.

Among OECD members, Australia has one of the highest shares (13%) of employees engaged in short part-time work, along with the Netherlands (21%), Denmark (15%) and Switzerland (13%).

While a changing labour market may contribute to what the OECD believes is “widespread anxiety about job destruction” – caused mainly by technology and globalisation – the organisation also predicts that a “sharp decline” in overall employment is unlikely.

Some roles will indeed disappear, with 14% of jobs in OECD countries likely to be automated. But other roles will also emerge, and the trend may generate more jobs.

“However, transitions will not be easy,” the OECD warned. “There are concerns about the quality of some of the emerging new jobs and, without immediate action, labour market disparities may grow, as certain groups of workers face greater risks than others.”

In this volatile environment, the organisation recommends building support for continuous learning – to enable both high- and low-skilled workers to “navigate a changing labour market”.

The problem is that “those who need training the most, including non-standard workers, train the least and training is not always of good quality,” the report noted.

In Australia, only 23% of low-skilled adults have gained access to formal or informal job-related trainings since 2012.

The country’s Structural Adjustment Packages, however, are designed to support workers in areas where “expectations of future employment are low”.

“A Stronger Transitions Package was introduced in 2018 to provide training and guidance support to individuals in five regions impacted by structural change to transition to new jobs,” the OECD said.

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