Jobs in the hospitality and tourism, transport, retail and administration sectors in Australia are most at risk from technology and automation over the next 10 to 15 years, putting nearly five million workers on the chopping block, according to research by StartupAUS.
A discussion paper, “Economy in Transition – Startups, innovation and a workforce for the future” produced for the national startups advocacy group paints a dramatic picture of how Australian workplaces will be transformed over the next decade by technology such as artificial intelligence.
The paper flags some of the key themes in the upcoming annual StartupAUS Crossroads Report due out in October, advocating for the sector, which CEO Alex McCauley says could create “five tangential jobs” for every job in a tech business and plays into Malcolm Turnbull’s “ideas boom”.
“The findings reveal the very real need for Australia to keep up its momentum on innovation and startup policy. This is not a niche area – it’s about what we need to do to help our whole economy manage its inevitable transition,” McCauley said.
“The paper highlights the extensive economic benefits of building innovation hubs which have powerful multiplier effects.”
The discussion paper, by Colin Pohl, argues that Oxford University found that 47% of jobs in the United States are likely to become obsolete in the next 10-15 years.
“In Australia, work based on this methodology indicates the figure could be around 40%. The same research also suggests that jobs that require high levels of entrepreneurial, technological, creative or social skills will be far more resilient to technological change,” Pohl writes.
He points to AI and robotics as two key drivers of workplace change saying:
Few jobs will be protected entirely from this powerful confluence of technological advancements. Profound impact will be felt in sectors from manufacturing and supply chain management to research, analysis, and customer service. The potential impact on other industries such as food service and retail is less obvious, though even here a range of technologies may combine to limit the need for large numbers of staff.
Australians now regularly self-serve at supermarkets and make a huge range of purchases online without interacting with employees.These trends show no sign of slowing, and as industrial technology supply chains become more sophisticated we will see impacts in more traditionally physical industries such as manufacturing and logistics.
According to research done by Frey and Osbourne from the Oxford Martin Institute, the least affected jobs will be those that involve high levels of human creativity or social intelligence. Skills such as entrepreneurship and business building, and technology skills that involve complex, creative problem solving, stand out clearly as important in this field.
Pohl continues, arguing roles that require a high degree of “humanity”, especially at management levels, will be best protected:
In other areas, the jobs that prove resistant to these transformative forces will involve high degrees of social interaction and empathy within fields that may otherwise see significant job obsolescence.
Examples might include finance and managerial roles which involve negotiation skills, or health and care giving roles where human interaction is important to patient care.
The scenario he paints puts 4.6 million Australian jobs may be at risk within the decade.
A key area of change, Pohl argues, is the shift to freelancing.
“In the US, approximately 34% of the workforce is already made up of independent workers and we expect this to increase significantly and for a similar trend to be reflected here in Australia,” he says.
“Many corporate jobs require specialised skills that are not required on a permanent basis, and infrastructure support for freelancers will facilitate an increasing number of workers operating across a portfolio of briefs based on their specialised talent.”
The discussion paper was produced in partnership with Sydney startups Expert360 and CodeCamp, as well as global tech company LinkedIn.
LinkedIn data featured in the report suggests 16 of the 20 most in-demand skills in Australia right now are technology-related, and workers with a mix of entrepreneurial, STEM, creative, and social skills will be in increasingly high demand.
McCauley says StartupAUS is seeking specialised immigration to meet the skills gap currently facing the country.
“As our tech startup ecosystem develops, Australia must be open to importing talent from overseas, and at the same time accept that skilled Australians will move offshore,” he said.