Services sector set for growth, despite hostility from unions

by John Maguire21 Jun 2016
Growth in the services sector over the next decade and a half is set to provide new export opportunities in healthcare, education and tourism, creating new jobs demanding greater levels of education and human judgement. However, a rosy future for employment in these fields could be derailed by continuing resistance from unions to flexible work conditions.

A report from ANZ Banking Group in partnership with the Australian Institute of Banking and Economics predicts that the services sector will increase as a proportion of the economy from 72.4 percent to 77.3 percent by 2030.
However, growth in education and health will occur alongside an ageing population, meaning that business and government will have to proactively work to ensure a capable workforce and avoid a labour shortage in those sectors.

The report, titled Servicing Australia's Future, suggests that a thriving employment market must be based on the creation of a workforce with in-demand skills, combined with employers that offer flexible conditions, such as part-time work, working from home arrangements and so on. The report proposes that a general increase in job satisfaction and less income inequality could be achieved by 2030.

However, provisions regarding flexibility are facing resistance from unions. Chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry James Pearson says unions have the potential to derail positive developments in the labour market.
The union movement in Australia is resistant, to the point of hostility, to the more flexible approach to working arrangements that the Servicing Australia's Future Report says will be required,” he said.

“Unless high wages are accompanied by high levels of productivity, Australian workers and the businesses that employ them will find it increasingly hard to compete. So, if there is an increase in union power, it must be accompanied by an increase in union responsibility.

"Unions need be willing to accept that the old ways of working, and the old ways of regulating work are not fit for purpose in the 21st century. Otherwise they will drive Australian services firms out of business, and the Australians who work for them out of a job."

Job force statistics for May indicated a continuing growth in part-time employment and a decrease in full-time employment, corresponding with how the report suggests Australia’s workforce will evolve over the next 15 years.



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