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Aussies must prepare for digital future

28 February 2016 by News Desk

44 per cent of today’s jobs in Australia will not exist in 20 years time so the country must prepare for a new digital future, a government report says.

digital futureAlmost half of Australian jobs are at risk of computerisation and automation, according to a new Government report on the digital future of the workforce.

Digital future: in 20 years you will probably be a freelance worker and your workspace will be shared with strangers – if a robot is not doing your job.

Digital future: workers most in demand will be those with science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.

Michaela Cash, Minister for Employment, says: “It is time to embrace the change. We can either be dumped off our surfboards into the sea by future waves of innovation or we can catch the crest of each wave and surf it into an exciting and prosperous future.”

But many of the skills needed in the digital future are currently not being produced in Australia. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are industries with the biggest increases in job numbers and wages. But the supply of workers is not meeting demand.

“The number of Australian students interested in these STEM subjects cannot even meet industry demand of today,” says Darrell Todd, CEO of thinkingaustralia. “So many more overseas workers will be required to meet the demands of the digital future.”

The new report by CSIRO and the Australian Computer Society says all industries will be affected by, and must change to meet the demands of, the future.

The report, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, stresses the need for entrepreneurism and innovation. It says workers will need the ability to create their own jobs in future because the workplace will be much different.

* The report predicts more people will work in shared co-working or ‘hot-desk’ spaces. It also said there would also be greater casualisation of the workforce.

In the USA, 30 per cent of people are independent or freelance workers. The new report suggests that trend will be mirrored in Australia in future. The Australian online company Freelancer has seen numbers grow from one to 10 million in the past five years. 88 per cent of freelancers say they would continue with freelancing even if they were offered a full-time position.

* Australia’s population is ageing. Nearly one in five Australians will be over 65 years old in 2035, compared with one-sixth of the population today. Nearly two thirds of the population could become dependent on those in the labour force by 2046.

With the ageing population jobs in the service industry will grow. There will be a bigger demand for health care and social assistance jobs as well as in the education, training and creative sectors.

* For people born between 1995 and 2009, the report says they will need to be creative and entrepreneurial.

The Foundation for Young Australians says that 60 per cent of Australian students are training for jobs that will not exist in the future. Most 15 year olds are going to have up to 17 different jobs in five different industries, it says.

In order to be prepared for this new working environment workers in future are going to need a very broad-based and enterprising skill set.

The report identifies six trends for jobs and employment markets over the coming twenty years.

1. A robot future
The explosion in device connectivity, data volumes and computing speed, combined with rapid advances in automated systems and artificial intelligence means that robotic devices can perform many tasks more quickly, safely and efficiently than humans.

2. Porous boundaries
Digital technology and the new world of ‘platform economics’ is changing employment markets and organisational structures. Jobs of the future are likely to be more flexible, agile, networked and connected.

3. The era of the entrepreneur
The ideal job within a large organisation may not be awaiting an increasing number of future job seekers. This means individuals will need to create their own job. This will require entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes.

4. Divergent demographics
Along with many other advanced and emerging economies, Australia’s population is ageing with growing life expectancies. Retirement ages are likely to push back further and an organisation’s employee profile is likely to contain more diverse age groups and more diverse cultural backgrounds.

5. The rising bar
Increased use of automated systems is raising the complexity of tasks and requiring higher skill levels for entry-level positions. Income growth in Asia is associated with increased educational and skills levels, as well as growing competition for Australia’s labour force. Many low skilled jobs are being offshored or automated. The consequence is the likelihood of a raised skills and education bar for entry into many professions and occupations.

6. Tangible intangibles
Employment growth in the service industries, in particular education and healthcare, has driven job creation in recent times. This is likely to continue into the future as we move to a knowledge economy. Service sector jobs requiring social interaction skills and emotional intelligence will become increasingly important.

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