Australia

Robots aren't stealing our jobs, new report says

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The dystopian future where robots replace humans in the workplace is a myth, according to a new report into the future of work.

A new report has found Australians' fear of robots stealing their jobs over the next few years has been unfounded.

The study into future workplace trends by Deloitte Access Economics suggests Australia's economy could be much better off by 2030 - as long as the workforce is able to change with technological growth.

Lead author Chris Richardson said advancements in technologies - such as robots - were simply changing the skills people needed in the workforce.

Robots serve customers at cafe in Tokyo, Japan.
Robots serve customers at cafe in Tokyo, Japan.
Yomiuri Shimbun

"We're much too scared, we think technology will lead to rising unemployment," he said.

"All of those are myths, none of them are true. What is true is that jobs are changing really fast."

The report found if the workforce is able to adapt and incorporate new skills and technology, it could boost the economy by $36 billion each year.

The need to incorporate technology into Australia's ever-changing workforce is a notion shared by Centre for Future Work's director Jim Stanford.

"Yes technology is changing, yes we are using technology in our jobs all the time in new ways," he said.

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Robots debut in UK parliament invites Maybot mockery
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"But workers are never going to be replaced en masse by machines; those technologies still need human beings to design them, develop them, implement them, operate them and of course there are new types of jobs and careers being created all the time."

The relationship between jobs and technology is all too familiar to Sydney University Robotics engineer and researcher Ian Manchester.

Currently, he is developing a robot to herd cattle called Swagbot, which would assist farmers in their job.

He said the technology would help people do their own jobs more efficiently.

"The reality is the robots we are currently able to develop are nothing close to the capability of a human, in some ways they are superior but in many many other ways they are not," he said.

"So it's not so much about a one-for-one replacement, it's about a different set of capabilities."

Robots stand at the assembly line for electrical car body construction at the Volkswagen plant in Germany.
Robots stand at the assembly line for electrical car body construction at the Volkswagen plant in Germany.
AP

However, the need for humans to keep up with the skills needed to fill new roles technology can't, remains a challenge.

Deloitte economist Chris Richardson predicted in the future more than 80 per cent of jobs will need to be filled by human workers.

He said this required Australia's workforce to keep cultivating creativity, encouraging interpersonal skills and be open to change.

"What is true is that jobs are changing really fast and that Australian workers and Australian businesses are not keeping pace with that," he said.

"We will need to get better at skills to keep up with all those changes in technology and, in particular, on-the-job training needs to get better."

Robots at the University of Sydney.
Robots at the University of Sydney.
SBS News

Working environments will also need to improve.

"The quantity of jobs is not going to suddenly disappear because of technology," Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford said. 

"But the quality of work, the insecurity of work, the wages and inequality that are being experienced in workplaces are getting worse all the time. Not because of robots."

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