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.
I want you to imagine the image of an average prosperous Australian adult. They have a job, they have a home, a means of transport, a family, they can afford to go out for a meal, and go on a holiday. There is plenty of fat on their metaphoric bones.
If for some reason the family loses part of their income capability, they have some money in the bank for a rainy day, may have a redundancy payout, or can rely on other family members to obtain work. There are plenty of opportunities to store food in the pantry.
For many Australians, this is a reality, for others an aspiration, and for others an impossibility. However, if you look at the trend data in Australia, that image of the prosperous Australian is starting to waver with many living on the edge in significant debt. They may still be able to live a prosperous life style however, they can’t afford anything to go wrong.
“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.
There are over three billion people in the global workforce. Of those jobs, it is anticipated that over 40 to 50% percent will disappear within a few years. Either blind-sided or blinded by the allure of what technology can offer, governments and businesses have to date, showed few initiatives, to ensure the future employment of its employees and citizens. Quite the reverse.
Many sectors are financially benefiting from outsourcing of labour overseas and introducing labour saving technology. This includes not only call centre work but the wealthy professions like law and accounting. They are retrenching staff and reducing graduate intakes, as they progressively outsource work overseas and invest in employment saving technologies. The consequence is per research conducted by the World Economic forum in 2016 is:
For every professional male job that is created, three male jobs will be lost.
For every professional female job that is created, five female jobs will be lost.
Why is developing confidence in people a strategic advantage for businesses of the future.
The future of work is focused on technology and the importance of people being capable of being innovative and entrepreneurial. According to discussions at Davos in 2017:
For the modern worker, flexible work places have been promoted as the holy grail for work life balance. For many this is correct. Flexible work places have assisted employees arrange their lives in a way that is mutually beneficial for themselves, their families and their employer.
For a growing number of others, this is not correct. People are starting to realise that the consequences and expectations of flexible work arrangements is darkening their lives. The long shadow is primarily accessibility.
We give you flexibility, you give us access to your life.
A type of ill-considered Faustian bargain
An anecdotal story.
There were very few women in corporate Australia, in senior positions in the 1990’s. I know because I was one of that minority. At the time I became intrigued about why there were so few women in business. Over time almost through osmosis, I decided to do my own anecdotal research as to why. I must stress I am aware that the data and my conclusions have no academic validity. The insights I gained however helped me navigate my career, helped me avoid some unspoken career traps and helped guide other women with their careers.
I have spoken to many men over many years and I asked one simple question. What did men fear most about women in business? Obviously the question wasn’t delivered cold. It was asked once rapport was built with my male colleagues and conversations were mostly had in informal settings. Most men took the question very seriously, though some were confronted at first, they genuinely explored the question within themselves.