Politicians have no idea about future jobs


By Leith van Onselen

Last night, ABC Lateline aired a ripper segment looking at the future of Australian employment and the track record of Australia’s politicians a decade ago.

There’s a lot of interesting extracts from the segment, including that a decade ago, Prime Minister thought the commodity boom would be permanent, unlike Kevin Rudd:

KEVIN RUDD, THEN OPPOSITION LEADER (2007): New leadership is about building long-term economic prosperity for when once this mining boom is over.

JOHN HOWARD, THEN PRIME MINISTER (2007): Why does Mr Rudd keep talking about the end of the mining boom?



There’s also the claim by both parties that they wanted to boost manufacturing, whereas Australia actually managed to lose 200,000 manufacturing jobs:

JOHN HOWARD (2007): I want an Australian nation in which a high-quality technical education is as prized as a university degree.

ANDREW CHARLTON: In the 2007 election, both Kevin Rudd and John Howard went to the electorate with promises to boost manufacturing in Australia.

KEVIN RUDD (2007): I don’t want to be prime minister of a country where we don’t make things anymore.

ANDREW CHARLTON: But both of their plans to improve manufacturing were mugged by reality. Australia lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs over the subsequent 10-year period.

And the acknowledgement that most of the jobs growth has been in low paid social services and healthcare jobs:

ANDREW CHARLTON, DIRECTOR, ALPHABETA: Many of the politicians’ claims in this area turn out to be little more than them claiming credit for jobs created by population growth, which is a bit like a politician claiming credit for the rain…

MARGOT O’NEILL: The biggest shift in the last decade has been away from full-time blue collar jobs held mainly by men to part-time lower paid jobs held mainly by women.

ANDREW CHARLTON: We have put on nearly 400,000 new jobs over the last couple of decades in the health, personal and community services roles and this is a really strongly growing part of the Australian economy, but on average, it’s a relatively lower wage part of the Australian economy.

CHRIS RICHARDSON: Now, the true key I think, you know, is not so much how many jobs – that’s just a population question – as to how good those jobs will be, and in particular, how well paid they’ll be?

MARGOT O’NEILL: But despite almost constant adaptation by Australian workers, wages growth is at a record low.

The extent of job disruption in one Australian generation is vast. The typical Australian worker just 25 years ago was an unskilled male. Now, one in four unskilled workers are either unemployed or not even looking for a job anymore. 200,000 labouring jobs gone. 250,000 trades and technician jobs gone. Nearly half a million secretarial and clerical roles all gone.

ANDREW CHARLTON: Three forces are decimating occupations right across the Australian economy: globalisation, automation and collaboration.


The employment prospects are also up in the air:

MARGOT O’NEILL: The typical Australian worker now is likely to be older, to be better qualified and to work in an office. But they’d better be ready to change again and again and again and again and again …

A young person can now expect to change careers five times and change jobs 17 times, while continually developing more and more new skills for the new economy – digital, collaborative, big data, presentation, problem-solving, creativity, social media, innovation.

ANDREW CHARLTON: Nearly half of young Australians are preparing themselves now for those 40 per cent of jobs that are at risk of being lost to automation. So we have a mismatch between the skills that will be demanded in the future and the skills that young people are picking up today.

MARGOT O’NEILL: So what are the likely new jobs?

ANDREW CHARLTON: The question is: how many jobs will be able to be created that people can do better than machines and computers? And the answer to that question is currently in debate.

Full transcript here.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.