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Automation Is The Biggest Opportunity To Grow Australia's Prosperity In Decades

But Australian policy makers and companies must take action now.

09/08/2017 10:49 AM AEST | Updated 09/08/2017 10:49 AM AEST
Johan Swanepoel
"The answer cannot be to eschew the benefits of automation or try to hold back the tide of technology."

Dozens of recent studies have stoked fears that robots and 'artificial intelligence' will displace millions of workers and lead to permanently high joblessness.

AlphaBeta's new report, The Automation Advantage, is an antidote to these fears. Commissioned by Google, this report is the most comprehensive study to date on how every Australian job is being changed by automation, analysing over 20 billion hours of work.

If Australia plays its cards right, automation doesn't have to be an economic risk. In fact, it could be one of the largest economic opportunities facing our nation -- delivering up to $2.2 trillion in economic benefits by 2030.

While most of the media attention is focused on the potential to destroy jobs, the biggest impact of automation will be to change the way we do every job.

But aren't the benefits of automation, um, automatic?

No. Automation is the biggest opportunity to grow Australia's prosperity in decades. But, this prosperity wont fall in our lap.

To unlock the benefits of automation, Australian policy makers and companies must take action now. First, they have to embrace these technologies. This report shows that just nine percent of Australian companies are engaging in significant automation.

Second, the benefits of automation will be erased if we don't ensure that the gains are widely distributed. That means doing much more to help affected workers to re-skill and transition, and it means a robust framework involving employers, unions and government to ensure that the benefits of automation are widely shared.

Making work more human

While most of the media attention is focused on the potential to destroy jobs, the biggest impact of automation will be to change the way we do every job.

In every occupation, machines are gradually taking away tasks that were once done by humans. The first tasks to be replaced tend to be the 'dirty, dull and dangerous' tasks -- manual and routine tasks. This means that humans can focus on work that requires more creativity, personality and more EQ than IQ.

The report shows that rather than replacing the work, automation has the potential to make our work safer, more valuable and more meaningful... More human.

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Technology Is Speaking And We Really Like The Sound Of Its Voice.

But what about my job?

Which jobs are most at risk of automation?

The research for this report analysed every job in Australia -- breaking each job into up to 2,000 different tasks and looking at the rate at which those tasks have been replaced by machines.

We uploaded this data into interactive tool to show which jobs are most likely to be affected by automation. See how much of your job could be done by a machine.

Balanced debate

Our public debate on automation and the future of work needs balance. Yes, it's true that there will be challenges for many workers who will need to be supported to adjust and retrain. Those challenges are real and must be addressed.

But, the answer cannot be to eschew the benefits of automation or try to hold back the tide of technology. That would relegate Australian business to lack of competitiveness, and deprive millions of current (and future) workers of the tremendous economic opportunities these technologies could bring.

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