Future Frontiers Analytical Report: The Future of Work in Australia

Photos of the report authors Joshua Healy, Daniel Nicholson and Peter Gahan
Dr Joshua HealyDaniel NicholsonProfessor Peter Gahan
Centre for Workplace Leadership, the University of Melbourne

Going beyond the headlines of robots stealing our jobs, Professor Peter Gahan and his team from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership explore the impact of technology on the global and Australian labour force.

Despite a technological paradigm shift, more jobs are currently being transformed than destroyed

  • Predictions of widespread job destruction could be overstated, and many studies don’t take job creation or transformation into account.
  • Routine tasks – regardless of the level of cognition involved – are being performed by machines leaving non-routine tasks to be performed by humans (for now).

Changes to the distribution of jobs have been less pronounced in Australia than elsewhere

  • Australia has not experienced the same ‘hollowing out’ of middle-income jobs that has been observed in other OECD countries such as the US.
  • Despite ongoing change within jobs towards more non-routine tasks, there has not been the same scale of increased income inequality seen in many developed countries.
  • The Australian labour force participation rate has been more resilient, potentially because of higher levels of education.

Uniquely human skills will be of the greatest value in the future labour market

  • Competence in performing non-routine jobs may best prepare workers for the global labour market.
  • Equitable access to education will also ensure that workers develop the competencies of greatest value to the future labour market – those that are hardest to automate currently – including uniquely human skills such as communication and teamwork.
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