Fri 1 May 2015
It’s not just one industry that’s been disrupted by digital, a new report shows almost half Australian jobs will be computerised in 20 years.
Back to the drawing board as to get & keep a job in this digital age
Nearly half of the jobs in Australia are at high risk of “digital disruption” in the next 20 years, and our education system is not equipping students with the skills needed to adapt, a new report warns.
PricewaterhouseCoopers chief executive Luke Sayers is calling for a national summit on the issue, saying universities need to start producing far more people literate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (STEM) to help the workforce adapt to a rapidly changing global economy.
PwC’s report, The STEM Imperative: Future Proofing Australia’s Workforce, warns many of the jobs people work in today “simply won’t exist in the next decade, either entirely, or at the same number”.
The report’s modelling shows the top three occupations in Australia most at risk of being automated in the next two decades are accountants, cashiers and administration workers, affecting more than 600, 000 workers. The least likely are doctors, nurses and teachers.
It says Australia is lagging behind its peers in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on a number of key STEM indicators.
It says that from 1992 to 2012 there was a 11 per cent fall in year 12 participation for intermediate mathematics, 10 per cent for biology, 5 per cent for chemistry and 7 per cent for physics.
Enrolments and completions in university STEM courses have remained flat over the period 2001 to 2013, while non-STEM courses have grown steadily.
It says about 44 per cent, or 5.1 million jobs, are at high risk of being affected by computerisation over the next 20 years, and 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills.
The report shows that shifting just 1 per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to gross domestic product over 20 years.
Some of the jobs most at risk from technology in next 20 years
|Occupation||No. workers affected|
|Accounting clerks/bookkeepers||263 348|
|Checkout operators/cashiers||128 745|
|General office admin workers||284 171|
|Sales assistants and salespersons||698 780|
|Financial/insurance admin workers||128 425|
Mr Sayers said that while there were already great initiatives to boost students’ interest and skills in STEM, business, government and higher education needed to “channel people’s efforts, energies and investments in a much more meaningful way”.
“We need to come together through some sort of STEM summit and put all the various parties’ thoughts, ideas and perspectives into a melting pot,” he said.
“Within that there will be responsibilities for government – the right policy settings, tax flow-ons, capital related issues – [as well as] things for the education departments and things for business [to do].”
During a panel discussion for the report’s launch on Thursday, Liberal MP Wyatt Roy said Australia needed to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs and develop the right policy environment to keep homegrown start-ups from going overseas.
Labor MP Tim Watts, who is writing a book on the economic implications of the digital revolution with Labor MP Clare O’Neal, said modern societies needed to incorporate “computational thinking” into their educational systems from the earliest stages.
“We shouldn’t think that STEM subjects are a stand-alone silo,” Mr Watts said.
“We need computational thinking to be part of all Australian students’ education. If you look at the United Kingdom, they have incorporated computational thinking into their curriculum, making it mandatory for all students from year 1.”
PwC’s report was prepared with help from the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University.
With Nicky Phillips