Australia’s future workforce

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


    CEDA has just released a major research report Australia’s future workforce? which focuses on the jobs and skills required to ensure the nation’s  economy continues to grow and diversify.

    Technological change is described as being a threat that may “radically reshape the workforce of tomorrow” and that “it remains to be seen whether it will generate a net increase in employment and wealth within Australia or if the labour market benefits will be dispersed.”

    CEDA suggests that modelling shows almost five million jobs face a high probability of being replaced while a further 18 per cent of the workforce will see their roles eliminated.

    The ever-increasing reports of technology impact and big data loom large in the report, as does the impact of the shifting “economic gravity”, climate change and the ageing population.

    The report includes contributions from 25 leading researchers and thinkers who describe the forces of these changes. Professor of political economy at Stanford University School of Business and expat Australian Steven Callander, posits that Australia faces a strategic dilemma – how can we become more innovative?

    Callander describes how Australia has historically imitated technological and process innovations yet had few breakthroughs. Put simply, we are an “exploiter” rather than an “explorer”, but this strategy is losing its value. The commodity expected to be most scarce will be ideas, but he adds that whoever owns those ideas will reap supersize rewards.

    Professor Callander makes several policy recommendations:

    1. Create liveable cities – workers who produce ideas capable of being sold on the global market live where the living is good. Australia has a natural advantage here.

    2. Create great universities – the link between strong educational institutions and economic development is tight.

    3. Mandate a small fraction of superannuation funds to be directed to “support entrepreneurial ventures”.

    4. Adjust competition policy to recognise and encourage the small players that often drive technological innovation.

    Reform the institutions of Australian legislative government – including the abolition of the Federal Senate or removal of elements of proportional representation, which he cites as creating legislative gridlock and political dysfunction.

    Callander concludes: “Our previous strategy of exploitation may lead us into a rose-coloured view of our current level of sophistication. It is imperative that this does not lull us into a false sense of permanency – or entitlement – as a member of the global economic elite.”

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