Federal Minister for Employment Senator Michaelia Cash has heralded a new report prepared in collaboration with ACS as a “blueprint” for the future of work in Australia.
Speaking at the launch of the CSIRO-led report, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, Cash urged Australians to embrace job and workplace change ushered in by digital disruption.
The landmark report is the result of a collaboration between CSIRO's Data 61, the ACS, ANZ Banking Group, The Commonwealth Department of Employment and Boston Consulting Group.
The report examines what its authors call “plausible futures for jobs and employment markets in Australia over the coming 20 years”, identifying a series of “megatrends” and implications that for individuals and businesses.
While it makes no policy recommendations of its own, the report is intended to power both public and policy discussions around how to bring Australia’s workforce into a digitally-disrupted future.
“Government, business, academia and the broader community need an accessible blueprint of how the world of work not just might change but will change in the future,” Senator Cash told a gathering of ACS members at Sydney’s Opera House.
“This report is going to help all Australians grasp the scale of the future change but also to help them plot their own pathway forward.”
Senator Cash urged Australians not to be scared of change to traditional job roles and employment fields.
“Many of you will have heard estimates that we’re going to lose millions of jobs to automation, and that many future jobs have not been even thought of yet,” she said.
“Whilst for many Australians that’s going to sound alarming, and even frightening, what do we know? We know as a society we’ve been there before, and what did we do? We embraced the opportunities that change brought to us.
“What we needed to do now [is] we need to take advantage [again].”
Senator Cash said the federal government was doing its bit to help prepare Australians for future work environments and roles.
“As a government, it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re setting up Australians so they can be at the forefront of this evolution [of work],” she said.
“The government is actively preparing for the future of work. The Prime Minister often says, ‘There’s never been a more exciting time to be an Australian’. I couldn’t agree more with him.
“The government also recognises that while there are opportunities in new jobs, we have to continue to ensure that in relation to the jobs of today, people are still able to do them, and where they aren’t employed, we are looking to get them into employment.”
However, Senator Cash noted that the government was not the only contributor to Australia’s future work readiness and success.
“It’s not just a solution that relies on government,” she said.
“The government’s role is to set the framework and then it’s up to everybody else – business in particular – to put your hand up and to assist us”.
In particular, Senator Cash saw the need to build resiliency in workforces to confront the changes that digital disruption will cause.
“What we need to focus on instead is building the strength and resilience of individuals and communities, bringing them on the journey with us, ensuring that they know the future’s bright for them,” she said.
“We need to create the conditions as a government for strong and engaged workforces that can adjust rapidly and well to changing conditions.
My view is that the ultimate solution to managing changes in the future of work is to boost the collective strength and capabilities of individuals, businesses and communities, and that has to be one of the number one roles of government.”
However, Senator Cash noted that another role of government would be to “not protect unviable industries” out of a fear of the future.
“We shouldn’t be scared as policy makers to say that,” she added.
CSIRO’s principal scientist in strategy and foresight and report co-author Stefan Hajkowicz believed the future of work would be about “transitions and gearing ourselves to this much more flexible and agile workforce that we’re going to have.”
He urged all Australians to “sit down and think about what implications” might fall out of the trends in the report.
“There’s not necessarily awareness of what we see as a perfect storm of jobs and employment markets [among most Australians],” he said.
ACS President Anthony Wong believed the ICT sector’s head start in understanding the impact of digital disruption on the future of work could provide it an advantage in adapting to the change.
“As ICT professionals with the knowledge capital that we have in this room today, we are better equipped to predict and understand the potential impacts of rapid changes in technology and the digital economy,” Wong said.
“We each stand in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution.
“However understanding the megatrends and potential of change is not sufficient. We must share our insights, inform and educate.”