A recent Four Corners on ABCTV was on the changing nature of work in Australian Society. It showed how unemployment is continuing to hover around 6.0%. It also showed how entire sectors of jobs are disappearing and new sectors are emerging. The main examples of course are manufacturing and related industries that are disappearing due to manufacturing going offshore – in short, due to globalisation. It even gave examples of how jobs in the transport industry are disappearing and we are seeing driverless trucks being trialled to run on dedicated lanes on major connectors such as the Hume Highway. The big haul pack trucks in open cut mines have been driverless for some time.
Whilst this is all very likely, this trend has been going on for decades now. In fact, when I was studying Social Work in the mid 80’s I studied and wrote on this very trend. My work was supported by the thesis outlined in Barry Jones’ book, “Sleepers Wake”. The technology is vastly different now however, with the advent of PC’s laptops, tablets, smartphones and underpinning all this, social media.
We should be mindful too that it isn’t just the types of jobs and the sectors of employment that are changing, it’s the nature of work. By this I mean more part time work, the casualising of the workforce together with that fact that many “employees” will in fact be sub-contractors; that is they will have their own ABN’s, are responsible for their own superannuation and tax etc. and will be far less secure in employment as they will not have paid holiday pay or have any leave entitlements. They will also need to be more mobile as we have seen the FIFO phenomenon (fly in fly out)
The end result for those wanting to participate in the workforce will be possible loss of income in monetary terms but also in terms of quality of life and work life balance. It will also result in increased profits for the owners of the means of production as they can vastly reduce employee costs.
The economic gap between the haves and have-nots will be wider still.