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Future of work: Literature review

Many sectors of Queensland’s economy are currently experiencing significant change with implications for the future of work. Through our work with stakeholders, Jobs Queensland has seen how Queensland’s industries and regions are changing. The impact of digital technologies and involvement in global value chains are driving changes in workforce composition and skills. Queensland faces many of the same issues that are impacting global economies, for example, accelerating uptake of digital technologies, changing demographic and social profiles, low wage and productivity growth, and perceived growing inequality. This literature review looks at the impacts of three drivers of change of the future of work: 1. technology impacts 2.demographic and social changes 3. legal, institutional and policy influences. Much of the literature and commentary on the future of work takes an international focus or is focused on Australia at the national level. This project places a particular emphasis on the impacts and implications of the future of work on individuals, businesses and communities in Queensland. Globalisation is another important element – as both an influence towards and the outcome of changes from the three drivers. It has been and remains a driver of change in work and the demand for skills (Australian Industry Group [AiG], 2016a; Becker, Bradley, and Smidt, 2015; Dolphin, 2015). Globalisation creates structural change not only in industries but also in regions as the industrial composition of a region changes in response to changing global consumer demand. This impacts the social structure of the region as well as its demographic composition as people move into or out of a region in response (Jones and Tee, 2017; Aither, 2014). The impact of globalisation is expected to increase as digital technologies increasingly enable the movement of labour virtually (Baldwin, 2018). We are seeing teleworking becoming mainstream, the rise of the ‘digital nomad’ where a person can work from anywhere in the world, and contingent employment models (Roos and Shroff, 2017). These changes will influence where we work, how we work and when we work, with some commentators predicting the ‘rise of the individual’ who will drive future employment models (Deloitte, 2018, April 5; KPMG, 2013). Precarious work is perceived to be on the rise in Australia as the nation transitions to a services and knowledge-based economy. The industries experiencing the most employment growth are service industries which traditionally offer lower skilled, lower paid, part-time and casualised employment. Even in the professional, scientific and technical services sector, a highskilled and high-wage employment sector, the rise of the gig economy is impacting the quality of work available (Australian Council of Trade Unions, 2018a). It is often thought that the major driver of this change is the uptake of digital technologies. Frey and Osborne (2013), with their focus on the impact of technology on jobs, forecast mass unemployment by 2030. Modelling was based on consideration of the impact of technology on whole jobs. More recent research recognises that a job is made up of a series of tasks requiring a range of skills. These studies highlight that the impact of technology is most likely to be at task level (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018; Bakhshi, Downing, Osborne and Schneider, 2017; Arntz, Zierhan and Gregory, 2016). Depending on the number of tasks that could potentially be automated, a small proportion of jobs may become obsolete. Importantly, however, all jobs will be impacted at some level and workers will need the skills gained through a lifelong learning mindset to meet changing job demands (AiG, 2016c).It is important to remember that technology-driven change is not new. Predictions that technology will make humans redundant have been made since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s (Lawlor and Tovey, 2011; Boreham, Parker, Thompson and Hall, 2008). To date the predictions have not come true, and there is no evidence yet that this time will be any different. In the past, major technological advances have led to increased productivity and improved quality of life as difficult and dangerous tasks were no longer performed by humans. More recent research acknowledges that technology is not the only driver to impact the future of work. Society and demographics will also influence the nature of work organisation and work arrangements in 2030 (Harris, Kimson and Schwedel, 2018). In the last 100 years the global population has almost quadrupled (Goldin, 2016). Together with a proliferation of new technologies, these factors are driving changes in the economic and industrial composition of nations. Australia is not immune to these changes, as with many developed countries it is facing the impacts of: • An ageing population (Balliester and Elsheikhi, 2018; Becker et al., 2015). • Women entering the workforce in increasing numbers and who are better educated than at any other time in history (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). • Young people are staying in education longer and acquiring higher levels of education (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2017, November 6). • Young people, indigenous Australians and people with disabilities experience high levels of underemployment and/or unemployment (OECD, 2018a; Lowe, 2018). • Many people from migrant and refugee backgrounds are not having their skills recognised or fully utilised within employment (Deloitte Access Economics, 2018b). While increasing longevity is currently perceived at times as a ‘problem’, it need not be so. We are living longer, are healthier and are more engaged than previous generations, which opens up opportunities and challenges for everyone (Gratton and Scott, 2016). This changing demographic profile is seeing a growth in the proportion of people aged 65 and older remaining in the workforce and increased demand for services that cater to this older generation. With the combination of an ageing existing workforce and the entrance of post-millenials from 2019, the world will – for the first time – see five generations in the workplace (Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers, 2018). This will bring greater diversity of age and experience to enterprises, driving the need to develop and utilise skills to manage and engage such diversity. Over the last 40 years, the Australian government has implemented many important structural reforms. The reforms have helped see the nation today enter its 28th year of uninterrupted annual economic growth (Tang, 2018). There are concerns that workplace laws have failed to keep pace with emerging trends, for example, the rise in non-standard work (Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers, 2018). People are entering and exiting the workforce at multiple points (Buchanan, Verma and Yu, 2014) or seeking alternate work arrangements that meet their lifestyle requirements (Manyika et al., 2017; Roos and Shroff, 2017; AiG, 2016c). This is bringing into question the concept of a ‘standard employment relationship’ (Stanford, 2017).