About 36% of Australian jobs face a high risk of being automated, which could lead to the emergence of lower quality jobs as a result, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says.
The OECD’s latest Employment Outlook report estimates 14% of jobs could disappear completely by 2039, and 32% of jobs are likely to change radically as a result of automation.
The report found that Australia has one of the highest rates of casual employment, with one in four workers (25%) casually employed. The report defines casual jobs as “short part-time jobs” that involve working one to 19 hours per week.
“There are concerns about the quality of some of the emerging new jobs and, without immediate action, labour market disparities may grow, as certain groups of workers face greater risks than others,” the report warns.
The report says a sizeable proportion of adults will need to upskill or retrain to meet the needs of future jobs or risk being left behind.
OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria has called on governments to invest in adult education to help the most vulnerable workers.
“In the digital era, it is important that people feel they will be supported if they lose out, and helped in their search for new and better opportunities,” he said.
The report found that 48.5% of Australian adults participated in some form of job-related education in 2012, but that number dropped to just 23% for low-skilled adults.
Federal election campaign draws attention to wages growth and job insecurity
The report comes amid a debate about wages growth and job insecurity during the federal election campaign.
On Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten proposed new laws allowing casual workers to request permanent jobs after 12 months of employment with the same company.
Workers will be given the right to challenge an employer if they “unreasonably refuse such a request”.
An estimated 2.6 million Australian workers are casually employed. Of those, more than half have been with their current employer for 12 months, and 192,000 for more than 10 years.
“While some people like the flexibility that casual work provides, for others it becomes a constant worry: never knowing what it’s like to have a paid sick day or paid holiday,” a joint statement from Bill Shorten and opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said.
“For those workers, it’s tough to pay the rent or mortgage and the bills, let alone make longer-term decisions like taking out a car loan or buying their own home.”
The party has also pledged to boost the minimum wage to a “living wage” – a more generous minimum wage designed to benefit low paid workers on junior, apprentice and disability pay rates.