The information in this article is derived from: a nationwide poll of 1,515 Australians aged 18 years and older, conducted by Galaxy Research in September 2017; and an online forum data analysis of around 54,000 posts on Energy, conducted by La Trobe University’s Research Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition.

Many Australian workers are not feeling secure in their jobs

Many Australian workers are not feeling secure in their jobs. For 45 per cent of Australian workers, job security is a regular concern while another 14 per cent say that job security is a ‘constant threat’ for them. Job security ranks fourth in the list of issues that Australians want federal government to prioritise, outranking education, the environment and same-sex marriage.

This fear is largely related to the impact that automation and technological advancements are having on our jobs. Almost half of all Australian workers (46 per cent) believe that automation and robots will play an increasing role in their profession, including 16 per cent who believe that robots would make their jobs redundant within the next 20 years and 11 per cent who anticipate this happening in the next 5 years.

Clearly, Australians are wary about the impact of technology on jobs and are seeking answers on which jobs will be most affected. In an analysis of online social forums that discussed job security, the most popular forum topic was “No 1 job that won’t be around in 3 to 5 years,” with 4,316 posts and 583 unique users. In this forum, users identified industry sectors such as logistics, banking, construction and mining, and postal service as well as specific jobs like drivers, librarians, cashiers and accountants, as most vulnerable to automation and technology.

Although Australians are certainly uneasy about the role of technological advancements in reshaping the workforce of tomorrow, they are also hopeful about its potential to improve productivity and work processes. While 37 per cent of Australian workers are either ‘worried’ or ‘very worried’ about the impact that technological advancements will have on jobs, 39 per cent say they are either ‘excited’ or ‘very excited’ about the new possibilities that it would bring to the workplace.

The fear among those who are worried about the impact of technological advancements is so real that 82 per cent have taken consequential actions to ensure that they do not lose their jobs. This includes 38 per cent who have upgraded their skills, 21 per cent who have chosen to work in a more casual role, 15 per cent who have not used up their leave entitlements and as many as 11 per cent who have accepted a pay cut.

Australians are realising the impact that technological advancements have on the permanency of jobs. On the online forums analysed, users discuss the shift to the ‘service economy’, which replaces full-time opportunities with more temporary, part-time and casual jobs. When a sentiment analysis is conducted on those discussing this topic by extracting emotions from the words mentioned in the posts, 43 per cent of such posts were associated with negative emotions such as anger and confusion.

The results from the poll confirm this phenomenon. Part-timers were significantly more worried than full-timers about the effect that technological advancements have on their jobs. While 44 per cent of full-time workers were either ‘very excited’ or ‘excited’ about technological advancements at the workplace, only 30 per cent of part-timers feel the same way.