Lifelong learning critical for futureproofing Australian workforce
08 Nov 2019
New report calls for Government to commission white paper on the future of work in collaboration with business, academia and communities
Lifelong learning is critical to futureproofing the Australian workforce and ensures Australian businesses remain competitive in a global marketplace, according to a new McKell Institute report about the future of work released today.
Commissioned by IAG, Australia’s largest general insurer, the ‘Opportunities in Change: Responding to the Future of Work’ report explores the current state of the Australian labour market and the evolution of traditional employment.
The report highlights the need for government and industry to respond to the changing nature of work and calls for the government to commission a ‘Future of Work’ White Paper in consultation with business, academia and the community to ensure an effective response to the changing nature of work.
While predictions about the impact of technological changes on jobs are often exaggerated, the report highlights that there will still be considerable changes that employees and employers must prepare for.
IAG Executive General Manager Gillian Folkes said: “The future of work in Australia is an increasingly important issue for both the private sector and government to address.
“As a large employer, and a provider of workers compensation insurance, IAG has a keen interest in the changing nature of work and its impact on Australians and our communities.
“We need to shift the conversation about the future of work from automation and robots taking our jobs, to how we can ensure Australians have the right skills for the type of work in the future and continue to have the appropriate level of protections and entitlements,” Ms Folkes said.
Around eight per cent of Australians are employed as independent contractors while more than 100,000 are employed full-time in the ‘gig-economy[i].
The report says that contractors often miss out on basic workplace entitlements, such as leave or superannuation, and are not adequately covered by worker’s compensation. This presents an opportunity to modernise Australia’s industrial relations framework to adapt to a changing workforce.
The McKell Institute Executive Director Sam Crosby said the report shows that in many respects the future of work is now.
“The forces we know will define work in the future are already being felt. Unfortunately, we are yet to face this new reality and much of our conversation about work still relies on old assumptions.
“We hope research like this serves as a timely reminder of how much work has changed, how much it’s likely to keep changing, and how we need to better prepare as a society to ensure no one gets left behind,” Mr Crosby said.
The report also identified that Australians tend to have an optimistic view of their future careers with more than a quarter of Australian workers believing their job will continue to exist in 50 years’ time[ii].
However, the report cautions that this complacency needs to be addressed by both government and industry to ensure that Australian workers are incentivised to embrace continuous learning.
In response to these findings, the report provides recommendations for government and industry to prepare for the future of work, including enhanced access to lifelong learning, investment in early childhood education, upskilling Australians with skills less likely to be impacted by automation and technological changes, as well as reviewing existing policies and workplace entitlements to reflect the changing nature of work.
Key report findings:
- Australian workers, industries and governments will continue to be challenged by technological disruption for the foreseeable future.
- Traditional employment relationships still dominate the Australian labour market, but these jobs are changing.
- A focus on people, not just jobs, is critical – industry and government should collaborate to ensure that people have access to lifelong learning opportunities from early childhood education through to retirement.
- The gig-economy continues to grow. Close to eight per cent of Australians are employed as ‘independent contractors’, with more than 100,000 workers employed full time-in the gig-economy[iii].
- Almost 2.6 million Australians, more than 20 per cent of the workforce, are employed on a casual basis[iv].
- The report found that Australians would like to work more hours, with many people engaging in freelance work in addition to their primary jobs.
- Jobs that rely on creativity or human-to-human interaction are expanding in their share of the labour market.
- Contractors often miss out on basic workplace entitlements, such as leave or superannuation, and are not adequately covered by worker’s compensation. This presents an opportunity to modernise Australia’s industrial relations framework to adapt to a changing workforce.
IAG has introduced training and development under its FutureME program designed to help its workforce develop skills that are likely to be more in demand for future roles. Last year it also launched its Cloud Academy that offers training in cloud technology so employees can upskill in this emerging field.
IAG has also introduced flexible work options and support for families, including an onsite school holiday program called Kids@IAG for employee’s children, to accommodate for their life’s needs.
The Opportunities in Change: Responding to the Future of Work report was co-authored by Australian National University Associate Professor, Nicholas Biddle, and the McKell Institute. The report was commissioned by IAG.
[i] Figures derived from Australian Bureau of Statistics - 6333.0 - Characteristics of Employment, Australia, August 2018
[ii] ANUPoll survey of 2,513 respondents conducted in October-November 2017. The poll of 2,513 respondents was the 26th in an ongoing series being undertaken by the Social Research Centre for the ANU.
[iii] Figures derived from Australian Bureau of Statistics - 6333.0 - Characteristics of Employment, Australia, August 2018
[iv] Figures derived from Australian Bureau of Statistics - 6333.0 - Characteristics of Employment, Australia, August 2018