The latest national research on job automation has deemed more than a quarter of jobs in the Esperance region ‘highly vulnerable’ – with youth, hospitality workers and salespeople to be worst affected.
The automation pack, released by Research Australia Institute, was developed to help regions prepare for the workforce of the future and provide stakeholders with information to identify key problem areas and start developing responses to maximise opportunities.
The pack revealed 29.4 per cent of jobs were low vulnerability, with the most secure being school teachers, midwifery and nursing professionals and retail managers.
Although the region’s figures mirrored the national average, the Institute’s General Policy and Research manager Dr Kim Houghton said he was concerned about how the changes would impact regional youth entering the workforce.
“The thing that worries me most about this next wave is it’s going to impact on those entry-level jobs that young people start their working careers on around the regions,” he said.
“We know that, in regional areas, there may not be many other options.
“In a larger population centre there may be other options available to young people but I do worry that, in our lower population areas, these jobs have been absolutely critical to getting people started.
“If we do lose a lot of these entry-level service jobs through digital applications reducing the need for staff, that will be a problem – and it will be hard to find alternatives.
“That leaves young people in Esperance with a limited number of really high-skilled positions available to aim for.”
The thing that worries me most about this next wave is it’s going to impact on those entry-level jobs that young people start their working careers on around the regions.Research Australia Institute General Policy and Research manager Dr Kim Houghton.
Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chief executive officer Kylie Ryan said it was likely Esperance was similar to many regional towns in not being able to offer youth all opportunities, including university education, and could be one of the reasons many relocate to metropolitan centres.
Dr Houghton said the adoption of the next wave of automation would rely more on consumers than ever before.
“This is not about moving and mechanical machines replacing people, this is much more about digital apps,” he said.
“When I say the next wave, many of these advancements are already there.
“The only reason that a business owner would do that is to reduce their costs, to save a bit of labour.
“I think that this is coming from a technology push rather than a demand pull – developers are busily working away at technologies that will save business owners overhead costs and labour costs.
“I’m not so sure how this is going to go down with regional consumers, particularly those who have already witnessed what happens when you bring big technology improvements to the farming sector and experience a number of job losses as a result.
“I don’t know that regional businesses and regional consumers are going to be able to go down this path a second time.”
With the 2016 Census showing unemployment in Esperance to be 5.2 per cent, well below the national average, Ms Ryan said the chamber were keen to continue working with stakeholders to ensure people gain the relevant skills to meet changing workforce needs.
“The ECCI are not so much concerned as we are committed to keeping local businesses up to date with the changing environment of workplaces and we aim to share information and provide opportunities for local businesses to be best placed to meet the requirements of increased automation in the workforce,” she said.
“The ECCI will endeavour to keep abreast of changes and work with our local businesses to help them maximise their awareness of technological advances and opportunities for them to maximise their utilisation of these changes.”