How can I ensure I and others have a job in the future even with new technology and automation in the workplace?

What’s the Problem?

Technological advancements across industries has reduced transport costs, improved communication and increased information flows. This has led to global interconnectedness and the globalisation of labour markets. This means that workers are not only in fear of being substituted by machines, but are also faced with the reality that their jobs can easily be relocated to elsewhere in the world where labour might be cheaper.

The pervasiveness of technology has led to global labour markets becoming highly competitive and increasingly vulnerable. Firms are responding by ensuring that their workforces are lean and agile enough to respond to fluctuations in demand. They are thus more hesitant to employ full-time workers until they see evidence that increased demand for their output is likely to be sustained. This may mean a much smaller group of employees will be able to enjoy long-term contracts.

Since the 1970s, when only 10 per cent of all jobs were part-time, such employment has since grown more rapidly than full-time employment. By 2014, part-time employment made up over 30 per cent of all employment. Underemployment, meaning those who are employed part-time but who would like to, and are ready to, work full-time, also remains high. Some studies have also shown that a quarter of all casuals have worked in the same job for 10 years or more.

Our young workers are particularly affected. The rate of unemployment is significantly higher among the youngest in the labour force and the proportion of young people not engaged in employment, education or training is rising. Other types of flexible employment arrangements are also emerging, such as unpaid internships or volunteering and self-employment, which may not give adequate security and protection to young workers.

Clearly, part-time, casual work and even self-employment is now a key feature of the Australian labour market. The nature of employment will continue to change dramatically in the coming decades. While part-time or flexible work arrangements can bring about many benefits for workers, such as making it easier for people to combine employment with other activities such as education or caring for family members, it can also translate into the reduced security of workers.

As jobs are now more easily substitutable, whether by automation or by outsourcing or relocation, the bargaining power of workers is reduced. While the highly skilled will push for a better work-life balance, many at the low-skilled end will experience increasing insecurity of employment and income. Less skilled workers are most vulnerable, as are younger and older workers.

Key Facts

 

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