The technological revolution is speeding up. By 2030 the consequences of this disruption will make the world we live in and the jobs we perform almost unrecognisable.
Look beyond the driverless automobile and consider the impact of 1 billion working drones.
Preparation is required to skill, reskill and upskill Australians to meet the opportunities and challenges the revolution will deliver.
“What lies between most people and destitution is their job”
Satyajit Das Financial Commentator
Most working Australians families including the tax office have relied on regular salaried incomes. This however is unlikely to be the primary employment model in the future. Instead many workers will be “off balance” sheet. They will be self-employed, contract labour or outsourced.
The future of work is more about flexibility and reducing costs. It has been turbo charged by technology and globalisation. There is no going back.
In Australia, there is already a significant reduction in full time employment and increasing trends towards flexible employment options. This is already resulting in Underemployment one of Australian’s most growing workforce concerns.
Have you heard of “dollar ready”? I recently engaged in a conversation with a business person and he said that their organisation was not employing people who were not “dollar ready”. They would employ skilled people from overseas rather than employ juniors or graduates, because they did not provide the dollars on day one. In other words, “dollar ready”.
This attitude is not shared by all but it is powerful language that makes you sit up and take notice. Complacency is not an option considering current trends.
- Youth unemployment is 13.3% and one in five are underemployed. Competition for jobs is intense.
- Graduate employment is the lowest it’s been since the 1992-93 recession.
- Apprenticeship numbers have declined since 2010.
What are they telling us about employment?
The new term coined for the unprecedented wave of job destruction and job recreation, is called the “great disruption”. Over eighty percent of the Australian population have not yet been affected, so their level of consciousness about the implications of a significant employment disruption, is only a vague possibility.
However, many people who are creating the technologies are acutely aware of how potential job losses may affect their customers. One example is Silicon Valley. They are doing their own research project called the “YCombinator”. This is investigating how to provide people with an income if they are unemployed.
“Sam Altman, the head of YCombinator, is so convinced that we’re going to need to figure out new ways of providing people with a means to live that he’s giving ~$20k each to 1,000 people in Oakland for a year just to see what they do with their new jobless income”. data
Lack of employment opportunities, is one of the most significant problems our society faces. It is not about just having a job; it is about having enough work, that pays enough money, to keep Australian citizens financially secure.
The record high underemployment rates, record low wage growth and continued reduction in full time jobs are worrying trends, influenced by the technological revolution.
The signals have been there but our business and political leaders have not heeded the warning signs. Both groups appear to be blindsided by short termism or ignorance. It is not being alarmist or pessimistic. It is facing up to the fact of an emerging problem.
As John McCarthy, the inventor of artificial intelligence said:
Articulating the problem is half the solution.
In their hearts many Australians know there is a looming employment problem in Australia. It is now almost laughable that the government puts out unemployment statistics that tell the masses that the unemployment rate is falling.
If you look behind the magic number, the fall in the unemployment rate is driven by the drop in participation rate. People have given up looking for work. Creating the illusion that part time work equates to full time work is just that, an illusion, disguising an underlying rising underemployment problem.
“Australia has a hidden unemployment group of 8%, combine this with unemployment you have 1 in 8 people who do not have enough work”.
Professor John Buchannan
Have you ever sat in a fast bullet train going at three hundred kilometres an hour? If you have you will have noticed that the landscape flashes past at such a speed that it is often hard to distinguish what you are observing. Time just flashes by and three hundred kilometres fades into insignificance, almost unnoticed. Normalised within an instant.
The Australian work environment is like that bullet train. Everything is happening so fast it is hard to recognise the changes let alone keeping pace with those changes. For example, the deconstruction of the traditional domestic relationship, of mum dad and the two kids with the mother being the primary caregiver now only makes up 18% of an average street in Melbourne.
The impact of the employment revolution cannot be understated. It is happening faster than previous revolutions with the advent of modern technology. Ironically businesses in the Silicon Valley, which is the home of the largest high tech corporations, are funding research exploring the potential consequences to society, if technology takes over most occupations.
One research project being funded is a base salary for everyone. They are conducting a pilot program in a city in America where 100 people get a minimum wage of $1,000 to $2,000 per month. There are no strings attached.
The study states it “will test payment methods and data collection, as well as whether the money meets people’s core needs, and how it affects people’s happiness, well-being, financial health, as well as how people spend their time.”
The collective pulse of our nation is steadily increasing; pushed upwards as Australians are becoming anxious about their ability to gain and maintain the level of employment required to ensure their own economic stability.
It is not just a matter of having a job but having sufficient employment. You may have a job but not enough hours or dollars to pay the bills.
At the rate jobs and professions are disappearing, the adults of the future will have to start planning their careers in kindergarten.
If this is beyond the realms of possibility, think again. The speed of change, the level of technological disrupters and the competition for employment is unprecedented.
Forty per cent of Australians employed in cities today, will have a moderate to high likelihood of their job disappearing within the next 10 to 15 years. That is five million jobs. For those in rural Australia this number increases to sixty per cent according to a CEDA report.