Seek warns 50pc of existing jobs can be done by robots



ASX-listed online recruiter Seek has warned it was "unlikely" that automation would create more new jobs than the ones that will be lost.

It said that around half of the existing jobs in the economy were already automatable with current technology and that the country faced a period of radical change.

"Addressing falling demand with a fixed supply side of labour in the market may see downward pressure on wages," the company says in a submission to a Senate inquiry into the future of work.

"This will be a significant shock to the Australian labour force, which has known only continuous economic growth for over a quarter of a century," Seek writes.

Seek's research finds workers in manufacturing and transport, construction, financial services and call centres and customer service all had a perception that their current jobs would not exist within 10 years.

Conversely those in science and technology, senior and executive management, healthcare, government and defence feel less under threat.

Education unchanged for 100 years

Cloud computing giant Salesforce told the same inquiry the government needed to start engaging with tech companies to properly understand how the working world was changing.

"Educational models have not fundamentally changed in 100 years, we still use systems designed for an industrial society rather than prepare students for a rapidly-changing knowledge economy," its submission said.

"Because of increased life spans, many Australians will need to work for longer than previous generations, and this means we'll likely need to transition between careers if we want to remain employable."

Salesforce said an advisory council on the future of work should be established, with representatives from business and government and with input being sought from companies investing in new technologies such as AI.

It urged "greater fluidity" in the labour market and says the onus was on the government to form partnerships with organisations to understand how automation was changing organisations during the transition period.

Gig economy for the regions

Airbnb said the government should prioritise investment in developing digital literacy skills, particularly in regional Australia and highlighted problems with the National Broadband Network for communities looking to attract knowledge workers.

It said regional areas faced social and economic challenges including a significant gap in employment and economic opportunity between the city and the country.

Unsurprisingly, it suggested that the sharing economy, of which it is a major player, was an option for increased employment in rural areas, and urged investment in fast broadband.

"We would encourage a bipartisan approach to Australia's internet infrastructure, to ensure that Australians (and visitors to Australia) have access to world class internet speeds."

The inquiry was secured after Labor's Ed Husic raised concerns that an estimated 3.5 million workers are under threat of having their jobs disrupted by technology.

These jobs include hundreds of thousands of professional drivers, whose jobs are threatened by autonomous vehicles, office workers who perform repetitive and predictable procedures and even professionals like lawyers, who have previously been required to sift through volumes of data to help prepare cases, which can now be done by software.

The inquiry has already heard from Google about the potential economic benefits Australia could reap from properly tackling the rise of artificial intelligence driven automation.

Union anger

Unions submitting to the inquiry however apportioned blame for negative changes to the workforce on companies like Airbnb and Uber, which they said had based their business models on getting around laws to protect workers.

Uber earlier submitted to the inquiry that workplace laws were discouraging it from providing perks and benefits to its drivers out of fear they will be classified as employees and hit with greater regulation. However the Transport Workers' Union said new employment laws needed to be introduced to enshrine basic human rights.

"As it stands, 'the future of work' is not new or innovative, It is in fact old-fashioned exploitation," The TWU said.

"Precarious employment arrangements are on the rise in Australia and the on-demand economy is itself characterised by jobs that provide low incomes with no certainty around pay or patterns of work ... The debate needs to shift away from simply whether a particular worker should be classified as an employee to determining what rights all workers should benefit from."

It advocated for a tripartite fund to be established between government, industry and registered organisations, funded by appropriate levies, to further safety, training and compliance with industrial rights in the new economy.

Unions NSW meanwhile said the Australian industrial relations framework was not properly prepared for the changing employment landscape - particularly related to the sharing economy.

"Flexibility has lead to a growing group of workers taking on the risk of business and forgoing the core benefits of employment like job security, paid leave and in the case of independent contractors, minimum rates of pay and workplace insurance," it said.

"Loop holes in legislation have allowed business, particularly in the gig-economy, to become further emboldened in undermining employment standards by engaging workers exclusively as independent contractors in the name of flexibility and technological innovation."

#automation #jobs #robots

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