FACTBase Bulletin 70 - Has the future of work arrived?

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The latest FACTBase Bulletin by the Committee for Perth aims to investigate some of the questions around the future of work, the workforce and the workplace including the potential impacts of new technology associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This bulletin Has the Future of Work Arrived? is the first piece of research to be delivered under the Committee’s 2020-2021 major project the Future of Work: equipping WA and its people for the changing world of work.

Key findings include:
  • The adoption and fusion of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, is changing work, the workforce and the workplace in Australia. This type of workforce transformation is not new, yet it is expected to accelerate over the coming decade.
  • A substantial body of research has emerged, which suggests that, in the short- to medium-term future, ongoing processes of technological advancement and structural change in the workforce will speed up, potentially leaving large numbers of workers susceptible to redundancy. Yet there is no singular concrete statistic, nor broad agreement, concerning the number of job losses that will occur, and it is apparent that new jobs will be created by automation and technological change.
  • There is consensus among researchers that technology and automation will alter the types of industries people work in, the nature of the jobs people perform and the skills needed to perform these jobs. There is also agreement that although the longitudinal processes of workforce change has seen a decline in the demand for people to conduct routine and manual tasks, the demand for non-routine and abstract tasks remains and will accelerate.
  • Australia’s economy has been shifting from a goods-producing economy towards a services-oriented economy over the past four decades. This has generated a shift in the types of skills and workers most in demand across all states, territories and capital cities.
  • In Greater Perth, the region’s unique specialisation in mining means that while a structural shift towards a services-oriented economy is evident, it has been less pronounced than in other capital cities in Australia.
  • Sectors such as mining are rapidly shifting towards more technologically advanced, autonomous production models. This shift delivers benefits such as enhanced productivity and efficiency, yet there is a risk that it will exacerbate the emerging mismatch between the skills available in the workforce and the skills required by the key industry sectors.
  • The impact of future work changes on low-skilled workers could be exacerbated by job losses and accelerated technological adaptation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession. It is important for industry, the workforce and State Government to understand these impacts.
Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.