Digital disruption impacts the organisations that offer jobs

Jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. It is organisations – corporates, businesses, not-for-profits, government and academic institutions - that provide work, and create and offer jobs. So the challenge of digital disruption is to the very existence and success of organisations, not just to jobs.

Organisations seek to become more productive, efficient and profitable and technology offers that possibility. The automation of tasks through the use of software, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence is a natural outcome of the digital revolution, eliminating jobs, reducing costs and increasing profitability.

A small business can’t afford to employ extra staff it doesn’t need. Large businesses are driven by shareholder demand for profits and will use software and other technology tools to replace employees to achieve this.

So job erosion is a natural consequence of digital disruption.

Where the disruption threat is highest

Of the 400 business categories in the ED Toolbox, 239 categories are challenged by robotics and 284 by machine learning and AI. Which is a lot. These categories are where workers are most likely to be replaced.

The process has already begun. 40,000 jobs have disappeared in Australian banks and telecommunications companies over the last four years, with only a few thousand new jobs in IT and data analytics created to replace them.

Less than half of all Australian workers now have full time jobs. About 4 million people now work on short-term contracts, are self employed, freelance, part time or temporary workers.

So it is important to understand where the jobs are, what study and training options might help and even to consider creating work through starting a business.

Planning a future that works

The industries Australia has depended on for the last 60 years are all in a state of radical transformation, impacted by the digital revolution, globalisation and the inability of governments worldwide to manage this change effectively. And our education system is still structured for the old world, not the new.

AI, robotisation, IoT, VR, AR, blockchain, holochain, remote sensing, 3D printing, cybersecurity, drones, nanotechnology, big data, BIM, cryptocurrency, Identity management, facial recognition, social media, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Uber and others are all changing the traditional world of work, and this makes it nearly impossible to plan study, career and work options with confidence.

And even those with apparently secure jobs and experience will be challenged in this new world of work.

So it is important to understand what is causing the disruption and plan study and work choices accordingly.

So it is important to understand what is causing the disruption and plan study and work choices accordingly.

Organisations and employees

Construction is the industry with the largest number of businesses in Australia and is also a large employer. Health and Social Services is the largest employing sector, followed by Retail, Construction, Professional Services and Education.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are the biggest challenge to future employment, with potential impacts on jobs in nearly three quarters of all business categories.

It is still early days, and the real impacts will not be seen for many years. But it is best to be prepared.


Which sectors are safest and why?

  • Creative industries and Sport – low threat, but low reward. The gambling lobby is strong.

  • 93% of farms - “mum and dad” farmers. Farm labour a challenge. Technology an opportunity.

  • Brick and wood homes – renovation + innovation with solar, smart homes, homes offices.

  • Demand for lifelong learning, new skills – curriculum has to adapt to 21st century demands.

  • Opportunity in waste management, water, renewables, land and mine reclamation.

  • Opportunity in “energy” minerals and rare earths, and export of mining technology.

  • Market growth - ageing population, NDIS. Requires new skills. Patient centric shift in healthcare.

  • Government a significant employer. Jobs protected by political expediency.

  • Low wage, low reward jobs. Gig economy. Service quality increasingly important.

  • Mostly low wage jobs. Auto and appliance repair challenged by software and circular economy

  • Automation slow. Issues of legislation, insurance and existing infrastructure. 60% owner drivers.

  • Challenges of robotics, automation, 3D printing. New business models, value adding, marketing.

  • Technology has impacted all media and telecommunications. Now facing new challenges from AI.

  • All traditional “agents” threatened by software. Artificial intelligence takes threat to a new level.

  • Professionals that originate solutions are safe. Professionals that process are threatened by AI.

  • Retailers selling “anything in a box”  = threat. Fresh, local, convenience and specialised = safe.

  • Valuable personal service provides protection. Employment, clerical, labour hire under threat.

  • Robotics is pushing the wholesale sector towards bigger, closer, cheaper and faster operations.

  • Finance and insurance brokers are threatened by AI. The whole sector has to rebuild trust.

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