The future of work: how can we adapt to the automation of the workforce?

By Elisabeth Perrin and Nadia Han

What is the future of work? And more importantly, how can young Australians not only survive but thrive in a work landscape that is inevitably changing?

The evolving nature of the workforce is a topical issue that has emerged in recent years. There is plenty of debate about the impact that automation will have on the workforce and the barriers and opportunities presented by globalisation. It is imperative to acknowledge the risk of increasing economic inequity in this new work landscape. A stagnation in wage driven incomes in the past decade, combined with findings that the group hit hardest by these changes is young people, warrant urgent consideration of this issue. In June 2018, a report was released as part of a New Work Order report series prepared by the Foundation for Young Australians which found that ‘half of Australia’s 25 year-olds are unable to secure full-time employment, despite 60% holding post-school qualifications’. There is no doubt that these changes will significantly impact young Australians, the question that follows is – how can we adapt to this new work landscape?

According to the New Work Order report The New Work Smarts, automation and globalization will have an impact on every job in every sector. Less time will be spent on administrative and manual activities while more time will be spent on collaborating with others and performing cognitive tasks. Young people need to develop critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills to adapt to the new work environment. They also must build capacity in using new technologies, learn to adapt their thinking in response to new data and importantly, invest in the development of their portable enterprise skills (a range of transferable smart skills outlined in the New Work Order report). Of course, the public and private sectors must also unite to create the infrastructure that will allow young people to build the necessary skills needed to minimise economic inequality and our government has an obligation to implement strategies and policies in the education and labour sectors that will support these changes.

A 2015 – 2016 report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers found 70 percent of millennials expect to work outside their home country and 63 percent of Australians believed it was important to obtain international work experience to further build their careers.

The changing future of work and subsequently demanded skills will no doubt impact on available international careers. Today’s global employment prospects vary enormously, with employment most commonly found in areas of the Foreign Service, government agencies, the United Nations, the private sector’s international business or not-for-profit spaces, and in academia. Tomorrow’s areas of global work will further expand, reshaping the international job market, trends and skills.

Jean-Marc Hachey, author of How to Build an International Employment Profile wrote: ‘International careers don’t just happen. They are carefully planned and built up over a period of time’. Essentials for finding international work are hard skills such as language proficiency, writing and analytical skills, management skills, and soft skills such as adaptability and intercultural communication.

For the estimated 600 million new jobs that need to be created by 2030 according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), enhancing capacity building, particularly in developing countries, is key to realising North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) 8
promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. An important target to promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all is to develop and operationalise a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact, a set of policy measures aimed to accelerate recovery in employment.

This will require effective and inclusive partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society to achieve successful and inclusive digital transformation, emphasised by the UNSDG Goal 17– to revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. The 2018 Group of 20 (G20) Summit in Buenos Aires placed the future of work at the forefront of discussions, providing a menu of policy options including preparing young people for the jobs of the future and ensuring they are equipped with the right type of skills.

The nature of the workforce will inevitably change by the year 2030. From helping move products and ideas around the world to stopping conflicts, fighting diseases or slowing environmental degradation, there is a serious need for rethinking and adapting to a future of work that builds a more sustainable and inclusive world.

Deakin University and UNAA Victoria/ Young Professionals are hosting a Speed Date Mentoring interactive session on Global work, study and volunteering, at Deakin Downtown (727 Collins Street) on 14 May 2019.

Mentors include:
UN Careers: Sally Richardson and Ian Howie, both former UN staff members
Entrepreneurs/Passion Projects: Ali Fowler, World Partner Projects
Volunteering: Billi McCarthy-Price, Global Voices
Consulate Careers: Laura Hughes and Trent Smythe
Networking/Internships: Alastair Roff and Ingrid Valladares, Australian Institute of International Affairs (Victoria)

Tickets are available here.