Australia and the AI Revolution: how safe is your job?

What would you do if a robot replaced you at work?

Australia, like the rest of the world, is undergoing an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution that experts say will see many traditional jobs replaced. But the transformation will also spawn new employment opportunities. Here we show you how to safeguard your future while preparing to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that are sure to follow…

How the Australian workforce is changing

Artificial intelligence is now smarter, more specialised, and more affordable than ever before, and this technology is rapidly being adopted to streamline business processes and reduce costs in industries right across Australia. 

Robots have been used successfully for many years in industries that require repetitive labour, such as in the manufacturing industry, and this trend is likely to continue. But now, as AI technologies become more advanced, these technologies are rapidly being adopted by white collar industries such the finance sector.

This trend is expected to change the labour force as we know it. A recent report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) estimates that 40 per cent of Australian jobs will be automated by 2025. That’s likely to amount to around five million jobs, say analysts.  

What industries will be most affected?

According to the CEDA report, 73 per cent of businesses will experience some form of automation by 2035. The AI revolution is set to drive innovation and efficiency right across the Australian labour market in sectors such as transportation, travel and tourism, finance, health, retail and food and in small-to-medium business. Quite simply, we will be able to achieve a lot more with a lot less human labour.

In the travel and tourism industries, robotic porters, bartenders and waiting staff, as well as robot receptionists and concierges, will likely replace their human equivalents. These robots are already in operation in some tourism destinations in Europe and Asia, and it’s likely this trend will reach Australia. 

In transportation, driverless cars known as ‘autonomous vehicles’ are now being trialled. This one innovation, forecast to be a one trillion-dollar industry, will undoubtedly lead to job losses for bus and truck drivers, taxis drivers and train drivers, but they also promise to reduce traffic, accidents and road fatalities.

In white collar jobs like accounting, AI is taking hold too. The use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in the form of software robots has already begun to replace financial specialists, with software robots proving faster, more efficient and producing fewer errors. Some of Australia’s biggest financial institutions have already implemented these technologies, with much of the rest of the financial sector likely to eventually follow suit. 

What can you do to safeguard your job?

While five million jobs may well be automated in the next 15 years, the AI revolution will also spawn new human roles that support, complement and control these technologies.

Increased automation will mean employees with more complex skills will be required to interpret and analyse data collected by robots as well as supervise, control and manage them. 

So what will these new professions look like? They might include big data analysts, remote controlled vehicle operators, personalised preventive health helpers and online security chaperones, to name just a few positions. These jobs will make use of our analytical skills, creativity and social intelligence – functions in which robots are yet to achieve a human-like level of competency.  

According to Senator Michaelia Cash, citing 2016 CSIRO report Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, jobs of the future will still involve humans at the core of the decision-making process. ‘The future won’t be about competing with machines, it will be about people using machines,’ she says. For industries to adapt, Cash recommends employees and industries ‘invest strategically in skills and training, and encourage people to apply the skills they already have to different types of work’.

Can you futureproof your career?

Considering ideas like those below may help you better prepare for the AI revolution. 

1. Identify where AI will be used – AI will more frequently be employed where repetitive or laborious tasks are required, like for data entry or administrative tasks. 

2. Become familiar with the technology – Embrace new technologies in your work and learn everything you can about how to use them. When managers require explanations, support or interpretation, they will naturally turn to the people who know how to use them the best. 

3. Reskill or retrain – Build on your existing skills and knowledge or acquire new skills in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, (S.T.E.M) or the creative industries. This will place you in good stead to be employed in a job that requires human workers.