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(Australian Associated Press)
Australians should not be afraid that robots will rob the nation of jobs, a leading economist has declared, because creativity and caring skills will be needed to get ahead in the future.
Chris Richardson has expressed this sentiment while his firm, Deloitte Access Economics, has released a report showing the Australian economy could be $36 billion better off each year by 2030.
The windfall would require Australia to take the right approach to shaping its changing workforce, in which people’s unique interpersonal and creative skills are becoming more important.
Mr Richardson will tell the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday that many people feel uneasy about the incredible rate at which technology is changing.
But he argues that fears about robots sending unemployment soaring are misplaced, as are fears that automation will mean more people moving between insecure jobs and that technology will keep wages growth low.
“Those who’ve been predicting that new ways of doing things would send the ranks of the unemployed soaring have been wrong for centuries, and they’re getting more wrong,” he will say.
The economist says despite decades of technological change, unemployment rates are close to record lows across the world.
That’s because new technologies are largely improving what workers do rather than replacing them, and that for every problem, there’s a job.
“If you doubt that the world will run out of problems, then you should doubt that we’ll run out of jobs.”
Fears of insecure work and people being forced into the gig economy are also unfounded, according to Deloitte’s report.
Australians are staying in their jobs longer than ever, with almost half (45 per cent) with their current employer for more than five years, while casual jobs are a smaller share of all jobs than two decades ago.
Nations with the most technology per worker are also the ones with the world’s highest wages, the report shows.
But there is a growing consensus that the nature of jobs will change.
There has already been a shift away from jobs that use people’s brawn towards those that use their brains.
The next wave of change will be towards jobs that require “skills of the heart”, which are also the largest and fastest-growing skill shortages in the nation.
“We need to harness and develop uniquely human skills – the stuff that robots struggle with, such as design, leadership, caring and creativity,” Mr Richardson will say.
The average Australian is now missing almost two of the 18 critical skills advertised for on a typical job, compared to 1.2 at the start of this decade.
Deloitte’s research shows the largest single skill shortage in Australia now is the ability to provide good customer service, which 97 per cent of jobs require.
When it comes to uniquely human skills, women are at an advantage, as they dominate “jobs of the head” while men dominate the manual jobs most susceptible to automation.
“The existing female workforce is in the right place at the right time to benefit from these changes,” the report states.
In light of the changes afoot, the report recommends businesses improve their training within the workplace and that state and federal governments support them.
Setting up workplaces well, by helping workers to have the skills that businesses need, could also prove lucrative.
Deloitte forecasts that doing so, and adding more flexibility to the workplace to allow people to be more engaged, could lift Australia’s income by $36 billion per year from 2030.