Future of “work”

Future of “work”

July 17, 2021
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This report narrates the future of “work” and its impact on Australia.With technological advances such as automation and machine learning shaping thefuture of “work” and providing a boost to socio-economic development, the waythe future of “work” is being shaped provokes a critical concern about futureemployment and the work environment. The report further discusses the need tofind a balance to address market uncertainties brought about by the future of“work” without sacrificing market growth. After all, the key trends anduncertainties reveal how technological advantages give both positive andnegative influences on the labour market. As such, the report focuses on theoverall ecological system of the future of “work” and the provision of criticalinsights.

Future of “work”: Future Sustainability, Regeneration and Innovation of Australia Over the Next 20-30 Years


The futureof “work” is more about cognitive skill instead of manual skill (Deloitte2019). Rapid development in technology has made a drastic change in employmentand the style of work (Luk 2018). One example of this is how automationtechnology like artificial intelligence (AI) and data mining unload significantlabour pressure (Manyika 2017). Advances in technology pose a threat to thelabour market as automation technology brings about superior outcome andadequate progress (Deloitte 2019). However, despite the so-called “threat”, thecurrent labour market benefits from embracing the change and adjust theself-skill to accommodate the needs of an evolving society (Manyika 2017).

The future of “work” offers unparalleled opportunities and supportssustainability and progress for the Australian labour market (Manyik 2017; OECD2019). Automation technology is inevitably envolving and is gradually replacingthe low-skilled manufacturing workload. Studies show that the shift toautomation has resulted in a 20% employment decrease in the manufacturingsector from 1995 to 2015 (Marr 2019; OECD 2019). However, the change is transitingand pushing the labour market into a more technological-based, high-skilledtalent pool (Khallash & Kruse 2012): it requires an effective eco-system for lifetime studying,creating openings to the workers who are vulnerable from technology (OECD 2019).In the meantime, the work structure is adjusted to meet the market needs (Manyika 2017). Apart from itsimpact on the labour market, automation technology is also reshaping thecurrent work environment by turning mechanical, muscle-added, repetitive tasksinto scripted, self-improving algorithm knowledge (Manyika 2017). Not only does it increase efficiency inproduction, machine learning and the production of automation are also provento be error-free and more productive, which in turn provides a positive outputto the society (Manyika 2017). As such, the future of “work” strengthens andexpands long-term competitiveness by increasing flexibility and efficiency ofproduction through communication, information and intelligence, hence itscontribution to sustainability (Gabriel & Pessl 2016) (Refer to Appendix A).

The future of “work” benefits the future regeneration and innovation ofthe Australian market in three different agents: work environment, workers andwork structure. Manyika (2017) argues that people will be doing physical workin highly structured and predictable environments, which continually stimulatesand creates optimised results. It innovateshow workers interact alongside machines. And more compatible interaction willraise productivity: for example, the average gross domestic product (GDP)relating to global export has increased from 23% in 1975 to 43% in 2017 (OECD2019). Furthermore, the future of “work” demands various technical talents, state-of-the-artinterfaces, which challenges the market to acquire development.

However, the shift ofstandard to non-standard employment provokes the concern for opportunities andsocial rights. This will be further discussed in the preceding sectors.


<<Future of work>>:  Key Strategic Certainties


The futureof “work” is confirmed to have an influential impact on workers, work environmentand work structure (Deloitte 2019).However, advantages and disadvantages are co-existing and require furtheradjustment in policies and market mindset.

Manual-intensiveworkload will be replaced

Computersand machines will be able to substitute workers in performing routine taskswhile reforming the non-routine tasks (Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017). Because of this,  there is a significant increase in for humansto undertake abstract and cognitive tasks instead (Marr 2019).According to the OECD (2019), the share of jobs in the information technologycommunication (ICT) sector has increased 25% over the last two decades. Moreover,36% of Australian jobs face a significant risk of automation replacement in 2018 (OECD 2019). At thisrate, manual-intensive occupation in Australia will face a severe decrease inthe next decades (Refer to Appendix B and C).

Talent skillset will be more cognitive-based

With thedecline of repetitive workload and the rising trend of high-skilled talent, theAustralian worker will be more sensitive to the new technology change (Healy,Nicholson & Gahan 2017). Individuals will react and engage in continuous studying,so they become more resilient and adaptive (Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017).In the meantime, the human workforce will be more optimistic in developing the initiativefor better collaboration between man and machine (Marr 2019) (Refer to AppendixC).

Decentralised workforces

Future jobs will be leaning to a more flexible formatdue to the advancement of technology (OECD 2019). Mobile technology frees theworker from location restriction while artificial computer unburdens the workerfrom repetitivetasks (Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017). The mobile technology enablesorganisations to cut cost and utilise virtual talent pool. Organisations nowcan take advantage of the virtual team and casualisation in a timely andcost-efftive fashion (Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017; Marr 2019). However,extensive usage will lead to low wage and job insecruity (Healy, Nicholson& Gahan 2017). According to OECD (2019), 25% of workers in Australia arecasual workers, of whom over half report having no guaranteed hours. As such,work in the future will be more flexible, and hence insufficient workload forfull-time roles. (Refer to Appendix D).


<<Future of “work”>>: Key Strategic Uncertainties


Unclear job opportunities and uncertain economic growth

Automationwill result in a massive reclassification and rebalancing of work (Brown,Gosling & Sethi 2017). Furthermore, Australian economic standing is notguaranteed due to the constant demand for creative and innovative talents (Deloitte2019). However, it is still unknown if there will be enough work to make up forwhat the market is going to lose (Manyika 2017; Sparkes 2019). Australia, inparticular, shows an increasing employment rate since 2014 (OECD 2019). Assuch, Australia is experiencing a minimal impact on job loss, and there is sofar no significant evidence that digital change has led to accelerateddestruction of jobs (Deloitte 2019). The concern and evidence conflict meansthe future labour market remains unknown (Pash 2018; Sparkes 2019) (Refer toAppendix C and D).

Unknown market demands

New technologies are designed to replace existing tasks.The expectationis more natural to plan and evaluate. However, it is challengingto plan for future tasks and demands that is not yet existing. Furthermore, itis unknown how new technologies may further stimulate unexpected consumerdemand (Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017; Marr 2019).

Work-life balance and social impact

Different scenarioshave been found in terms of work-life balance. With technology taking over deterioratingthe pressure of job loss, people are working harder to ensure their jobsecurity. A study shows that work-life balance is only available for the mostprivileged of workers. They do not need to worry about job loss, hence tosecure a better work-life balance. The future is per definition uncertain,hence the future of work-life balance is uncertain (Khallash & Kruse 2012).



<<Theme>>:  Key Drivers


Higher productivity andliving standards

Economicgrowth closely connects with technological developments (Brown, Gosling &Sethi 2017). With that, organisations and individuals are seekingefficient ways to achieve higher productivity and living standards. Improvementsin future living standards rely on continued gains in productivity, and thatmeans fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace (Deloitte 2019). Assuch, the disruptive technology will be accelerated by enabling the knowledgeupgrade and talents update.

Social protections and benefits

Although rapid technological development is mostly positive,it also needs regulations and intervention for taking care of the overlookedlabour market (Brown, Gosling & Sethi 2017). Many workers are poorlyprotected by traditional labour laws and social policies (OECD 2019). However,Australia’s outstanding labour law and policy settings are designed to beharnessing the benefit of casualisation and minimising the impact of illegallabour acts(Healy,Nicholson & Gahan 2017). Assuch, it is considered to ultimately shape the negativities of technologicalforces(Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017). Aseries of integrated social protection and benefits will protect the sociallyvulnerable groups and drive the labour market skill level, hence the publicliving standard by maintaining a stable source of income (Refer to Appendix E).

ICT as a driver of innovation

Technology itself is the primary driver to assist theprogress of the future of “work”, both economically and socially. Transforming manual workinto cognitive knowledge is the core facilitator that build and reshape the workforces,businesses and work practices(Brown, Gosling & Sethi 2017). Advancement inthe ICT sphere, such as better internet connection, enhances the connectivitythat drives innovation.

<<Future of “work”>>: “Working Theory”


In figure 1, Worker, work environment and work structureare the active agents who are experiencing the influence of disruptivetechnology. The technology gradually transforms labour market fromlabour-intensive to cognitive. The three key drivers motivateand regulate the agents to make sure the development proceeds correctly.However, the uncertainties are still the issues that await to be tackled.Overall, it is a close-loop and co-existing relationship among the listedelements.

Summary and Conclusion


In thefuture, Australia is experiencing a dramatic shift towards digital services anda knowledge-driven economy made by the outstanding growth of computer science. Withthe positive and negative impacts, the future of “work” focuses on economicgrowth while looking for sustainability, innovation and regeneration. The data suggeststhat the labour market will be more distributive and knowledge-centric. Theconcerns of employment, market demand and future work-life balance remainunknown; however, the technology and social protection will try to address theseissues. The aim is to find a natural balance between the negativities of workquality and quantity while exploring innovative technological potential.



Brown, J, Gosling, T & Sethi, B 2017, Workforce of thefuture: The competing forces shaping 2030, PWC, viewed February 16 2020,<https://www.pwc.com.au/pdf/workforce-of-the-future-the-competing-forces-shaping-2030.pdf>.

Deloitte 2019, "Building the lucky country", DeloitteInsights, viewed February 13 2020, <https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/technology-and-the-future-of-work/building-the-lucky-country.html>.

GABRIEL, M & PESSL, E 2016, "Industry 4.0 and sustainabilityimpacts: Critical discussion of sustainability aspects with a special focus onfuture of work and ecological consequences", Annals of FacultyEngineering Hunedoara, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 131, viewed February 16 2020, <https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b7a7/8a624b53a53ea1d8180b538047bdc600c9b6.pdf>.

Healy, J, Nicholson, D & Gahan, P 2017, The Future of Workin Australia: Anticipating how new technologies will reshape labour markets,occupations and skill requirements, EDUCATION: FUTURE FRONTIERS, viewedFebruary 15 2020,<http://www.monte.nsw.edu.au/files/2615/2220/7017/The-Future-of-Work-in-Australia-analytical-report11.pdf>.

Khallash, S & Kruse, M 2012, "The future of work and work-lifebalance 2025", Futures, vol. 44, no. 7, pp. 678-686.

Luk, G 2018, "Technology Has Already Taken Over 90% Of The JobsHumans Used To Do", Forbes.com, viewed February 13 2020,<https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/01/18/technology-has-already-taken-over-90-of-the-jobs-humans-used-to-do/#68f8fde81bdd>.

Manyika, J 2017, "Technology, jobs, and the future ofwork", McKinsey & Company, viewed February 15 2020,<https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/technology-jobs-and-the-future-of-work>.

Manyika, J 2017, "What is the future of work?", McKinsey& Company, viewed February 13 2020,<https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/what-is-the-future-of-work#>.

Marr, B 2019, "The Future Of Work: 5 Important Ways Jobs WillChange In The 4th Industrial Revolution", Forbes, viewedFebruary 15 2020,<https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/07/15/the-future-of-work-5-important-ways-jobs-will-change-in-the-4th-industrial-revolution/#758614f254c7>.

OECD 2019, "Data on the future of work - OECD", Oecd.org,viewed February 15 2020,<https://www.oecd.org/els/emp/future-of-work/data/>.

OECD 2019, "OECD Employment Outlook 2019", Oecd.org,viewed February 15 2020, <http://www.oecd.org/employment/outlook/>.

Pash, C 2018, "Half of Australian workersfear losing their jobs to robots", Business Insider Australia,viewed February 20 2020,<https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australians-fear-losing-jobs-robots-2018-12>.

Sparkes, D2019, "Jobs for humans - Australia needs to prepare for automation",ABC Radio, viewed February 20 2020,<https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/jobs-for-humans---australia-needs-to-prepare-for-automation/11201168>.



Appendix A: Future of work insustainability, regeneration and innovation
(Exhibit 2 Future of work in sustainability,regeneration and innovation)
(Exhibit 2 Future of work in sustainability,regeneration and innovation)

The picture shows a co-existing and co-dependent relationshipbetween the agents from the future of “work” and the generated outcomes.Sustainability requires long-term, co-beneficial relationship; regeneration representsthe capacity of adaption and adoption; innovation demands objective, creativeand motivation. With that in mind, the future of “work” always chases on thegoal of higher productivity and living standard. In order to do so, it needstools (technological advances) that improve efficiency. The outcomes from thetechnological advances motivate the agents to improve themselves for a betteradaption. As such, the future of “work” is critical for Australian futuresustainability, regeneration and innovation.

Appendix B: Replacing manual-intensivejobs
(Exhibit 3 Future of work and technology, Source: OECD2019)

Accordingto OECD (2019), 14% of jobs could be automated, along with 32% of jobs willchange significantly. This indicates the future of “work” will focus more oncognitive, non-routine and creative areas. With that in mind, the manufacturingindustry, where has the highest employment, will suffer the most as automationwill replace human workers.

It isalso showing that it is highly unlikely that there will be insufficient jobs inthe future as the market demand shifts. However, how soon that the markettalents can adapt the change and start training will be an issue that barriersthe employment, hance another sign of the “insufficient jobs”.

Appendix C: Changein share of total Australian employment, by skill type, 1987-2017
(Exhibit 4 Change in share of total Australianemployment, Source: (Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017)

Thepublic worry about the technology takeover for a long time. And the worry isbase on reality and subjective feeling. More than half (51%) of Australianworkers concern about their work due to the impact of technologies such asartificial intelligence (AI) and automation (Pash 2018). According to Pash (2018), 59% of surveyedAustralian workers are ready to take responsibility for adapting the future ofwork. But the speed of adaption, which is the upskilling rate, is not enough tokeep up with the job change (Sparkes 2019). According to Exhibit 4, the rise ofnon-routine work is doubtfully able to compensate for the drop in routine work.As such, the unclear job opportunities (Refer to Appendix B ) will lead to therise of casualisation (Refer to Appendix D), hence the lack of public workbenefit (Refer to Appendix E).

Appendix D: Decentralised work
(Exhibit 5 Casual employment rate in Australia, Source: Healy,Nicholson & Gahan 2017)
(Exhibit 5 Casual employment rate in Australia, Source: Healy,Nicholson & Gahan 2017)


(Exhibit 6 Australian work-at-home status,  Source: Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017)
(Exhibit 6 Australian work-at-home status,  Source: Healy, Nicholson & Gahan 2017)

Appendix E: Socialprotection and the future of work
(Exhibit 7 Social protection status, Source: OECD 2019)‍
(Exhibit 7 Social protection status, Source: OECD 2019)

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Dean Long | Expert in Growth MarketingDean Long

Dean Long is a Sydney-based creative marketing and communication professional with expertise in paid search, paid social, affiliate and e-commerce advertising. He's also a distinct MBA Graduate from Western Sydney University.

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