Workforce polarisation in Tasmania: Implications for the future of work and training
Tasmania, like many economies, is undergoing a process of economic restructuring tied to what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Technological mega-trends – including digital disruption, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, automation and robotics – are transforming the nature of work and careers. These changes are happening at the same time as a range of other economic, demographic and social shifts. A growing concern linked to this revolution is the polarisation of the workforce. There is evidence the workforce is being hollowed out, particularly for young people. A growing proportion of jobs are either high or low skilled, while a declining share require mid-level skills. These mid-level jobs have long been considered “entry-level” positions suitable for school leavers and graduates. Many experts argue the loss of entry-level jobs will reduce opportunities for young people to enter the workforce and limit opportunities for career progression for people in lower-skilled jobs, with long-term consequences. This workforce polarisation, tied to deep structural issues, highlights the need to provide and prioritise continuous skill development and flexible career pathways. Addressing the issue will also help Tasmania capture and maximise opportunities for increased competitiveness and productivity in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Conversely, in the absence of strategic policy intervention, growing polarisation could impede the state’s economic performance and efforts to close the social inequality gap. Workforce polarisation over time has the potential to threaten productivity, social mobility and inclusive growth.