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The megatrend putting 36% of jobs in danger

·3-min read
A man in a high-viz jacket stands at an automated bottle filling machine
Automation is set make 36 per cent of the jobs in Australia obsolete, according to a new OECD report (Source: Getty)

The increase of automation is set to make 36 per cent of jobs in Australia obsolete, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said.

In a new report, the OECD said economic, demographic and environmental trends have been changing the location of jobs as well as the demand for skills in the Aussie workforce.

And for workers in certain Australian regions, this trend will be even more pronounced.

“These changes have had many positive effects, including longer and healthier lives, safer workplaces, and more productive economies,” the report said.

“Yet, they have also generated substantial uncertainty about the future.”

Jobs in most danger

The report said jobs in mining, manufacturing and agriculture are the most at risk.

The report singled out specific regions that are more at risk than others. In Queensland, the risk of automation varies from 41.2 per cent in Mackay Isaac Whitsunday to 27.7 per cent in Brisbane Inner City.

Likewise, in rural regions, the risk of losing jobs to automation relates to the large amount of skilled occupations in agriculture.

This is the case in South Australia, where 40.3 per cent of jobs are at risk, the report said.

The automation revolution is a trend that has been increasing over the last few decades, the OECD said, warning that it will impact job stability as workers are required to acquire new skills to stay relevant.

“Ongoing shifts could also reinforce geographic divides, as large cities and other places already ahead are generally better poised to reap the benefits of these changes,” it said.

What can be done to save jobs?

While the 36 per cent figure seems scary, the OECD said Australia is in a good position to transfer skill sets to meet the changing demands.

“While some jobs are likely to disappear due to automation, a larger share is likely to undergo significant change in the type of skills they require,” the report said.

“Automation will likely impact selected tasks within jobs rather than replacing entire jobs.”

In fact, the OECD said automation could lead to improvements in the quality of jobs.

That is, dangerous or boring tasks can be automated, people can choose where and when to work more freely, resulting in a better work-life balance and work environments can be made safer and healthier.

“Whether workers lose their jobs or have to adapt to new tasks in light of automation, adult learning systems play a key role in up- and re-skilling to meet new skill needs,” the OECD said.

“Automation will also create jobs, but these will not necessarily be in the same places as the jobs that were lost.”

The report found that on average, regions with a lower-educated workforce and that are less urbanised have a higher share of jobs at risk.

“In past waves of technological change, cities that already had a highly skilled workforce have benefited the most from the new, complementary jobs created,” it said.

“They attracted more high-skill jobs and workers, and reaped the spillover benefits in terms of other local job creation.”

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