Around 10% of Australian jobs are at ‘high risk’ of automation, but some of the country’s regions are significantly more vulnerable, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warns.
Faring better than other nations overall, more than one in three Australian jobs are at some risk of being replaced, while the threat increases away from major urban centres, according to a new report.
It ranks the mining-dependent Hunter Valley in New South Wales and Mackay in Queensland’s north as among the most vulnerable in the country, with more than 40% of jobs at risk.
While not a mining hub, Sydney’s south-west ranks alongside them due to its reliance on other exposed jobs, including those in food preparation, handicraft and printing, machine operation, cleaning and clerical work.
Shepparton in Victoria, the southern outback in WA, the south east of South Australia and north-west Tasmania all rank as at the highest risk in each of the other states.
Curiously, the Northern Territory reverses the overall trend, with rural jobs in the Top End actually ranking safer than Darwin.
The report correlates regions with higher unemployment, a greater reliance on industries like agriculture and manufacturing, and fewer university graduates as those with lower job security. Men and Indigenous Australians are identified as the most exposed demographics.
Predictably, those risk factors are helping safeguard inner city regions, with just one in four jobs at risk in the northern and eastern suburbs of Sydney, inner Melbourne and inner Perth.
The clear differences between regional and metropolitan areas position the issue as a politically divisive issue, at the same time that the debate over net-zero carbon emission targets rages in Canberra.
The OECD warns that the transition “could lead to more job losses in sectors such as mining, which may exacerbate existing regional labour market disparities”.
It isn’t to say all of those occupations are destined to disappear. While some will be eliminated as a result of automation, others will simply transition to high-skill roles focused on raising productivity.
In part, that transition is already underway as the labour force moves into more stable jobs like healthcare and teaching, only accelerated further during the pandemic.
A greater focus on skill programs preparing workers for the future, as well as projects that diversify local economies, such as the new Western Sydney Airport, will be required
Automation is coming, one way or another, the OECD argues, but it’s up to Australia to meet it head on or risk being left behind.