Technology, inequality and the future of work

Image courtesy of Square Up, Australia.

 

Reflections on The University of Melbourne Lecture Series 

Recently, I attended a discussion about the future impacts of technological innovation on Australia’s workforce and economic and social equality, at The University of Melbourne. Tim Dunlop (Futurist) and Tim Lyons (former ACTU Assistant Secretary) debated the likelihood of new technologies widening, or perhaps redefining, the gap between richer and poorer Australians by changing the way we work in the future. In particular, Tim Dunlop’s perspective resonated with me, as I share below.

 

The Good:

Dunlop painted a new kind of future in which institutions are self-governing, brave and interested in wealth redistribution, rather than principally driven by profit maximisation for shareholders. Dunlop says that technology can be the enabler for this future if we embrace its power and actively use it to drive equity.

 

The Bad:

Despite our general reluctance to look at alternative options of workforce and working in favour of traditional forms of work, work patterns and hours, change is arriving fast. Our future will be one where machine learning, robotics and automation will radically change the way we work.

Looking at the current labour market, it is easy to understand predictions that much of “Working Australia” operating in unstructured environments and with flexible hours will be the first to face automation. According to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), approximately 36 per cent of Australian jobs face a significant or high risk of automation, and it is expected for young people without tertiary education will be most affected, given their higher rates of under-employed, non-employed or low pay. In short: more young people struggling to get work.

 

The Ugly:

Dunlop expects higher paying knowledge roles and lower paid essential caring and healing jobs to remain mostly unchanged.  Rather, he asks what jobs will be created and who will and won’t have access to them?  His prediction is that “Working Australia” will be most impacted by technology and automation, carving out a deeper hole in equality and opportunity. He says that for generations we have rewarded the stewards of extraction far more that the stewards of renewal, and without a significant refocus we are set to continue driving a greater wedge between the “haves “and “have nots”.

 

The Way Forward:

To counter this, Dunlop paints a vision for economic and social equality, that values participation and contribution to society, rather than just labour, which can be enabled by technology. Rather than leaving wealth distribution to the invisible hand and being fearful of the impending change, he says we need to lean into technology. Technology can allow workers to improve their productivity, but instead of lining the pockets of our shareholders with the margin earned from these efficiencies, use the reclaimed working hours to innovate, and create social solutions (or, solve social problems) and increase quality of life.

We’ve seen this already through the likes of Hire Up providing more choice to customers, OurSay allowing people to participate in local decision-making, or Square Up enabling electronic payment for any business.

Dunlop argues that we are on the verge of a technological shift large enough to impact us as much as climate change.  We need to decide what future we want rather than let history dictate our future.

Of course, this approach requires us to reimagine the way we value our work and a fundamental shift in prospering Australia’s rich (10% of Australians hold 49% of the wealth), which will in no way be an easy task.

These technologies have the potential to disrupt the very fabric upon which we have built our way of working. And these technologies will, on the whole, increase productivity and drive a surplus. So, if technology and therefore productivity is coming, how will you innovate, create or solve with the surplus?

Spread the love

Business and mindset coaching offers key to covid recovery for women-led businesses in PNG

TDi are working with PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre to recruit and coach a total of 100 women-led SMEs (or deliver 800 hours of coaching) over four rounds of coaching from May through to December, with an average of 200 hours of coaching per round. Alongside, 4 Local Business Coaches are being trained in TDi’s method to continue to support women-led SMEs in PNG. Here are the results for the first of the four rounds of coaching.

What 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us

Last year TDi celebrated 10 years, and over that time we’ve had the opportunity to travel with a number of organisations and often get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. Recently, TDi’s CEO Anthea Smits, had the opportunity to reflect on what the past 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us. This article is a reflection on our top 6 learnings.

Meaningful Conversations about Reconciliation

This month’s Meaningful Conversation coincided with the start of National Reconciliation Week so we took the opportunity to explore the notion of reconciliation, and particularly this year’s theme which invites brave action.

Using the Business Model Canvas

When it comes to creating a new business, one question looms larger than all others: “Does this have potential?” The Business Model Canvas is a great starting point. This blog by TDi’s Isaac Jeffries describes how to fill out it out.

Hope in a challenging environment

A reflection by TDis, Carlo Demaio, on the PNG Highlands township of Porgera.

Mitch Wallis puts his heart on his sleeve about working with TDi

We were so grateful to Mitch from Heart On My Sleeve for sharing this video story of his experiences working with TDi.

A creative business model that is inspiring Pacific Islanders to return to local cuisine to benefit their health, economy and climate

“The story of the food is the story of the people.” This is the belief that has inspired celebrity chef Robert Oliver to create the reality cooking show and community project ‘The Pacific Island Food Revolution’.

Reflections on a year of Crisis and Challenge

As the mood becomes festive, with the end of a long year in sight, we want to take a moment to pause. It’s tempting to want to switch off, but before we do, we want to share some honest reflections of this past 12 months so that we go forward with the learning and insights of this year’s journey. 

Holiday Reading Recommendations

The TDi team spend a lot of time reading (or listening) to books and podcasts throughout the year. This year has been out of the ordinary, to say the least, so our reading and watching suggestions for this holiday season are a mix of fun and educational - just to...

Social Enterprise Marketplace

If you are looking for a gift or service with a purpose, we’ve created a marketplace so that you can #shopsocialenterprise.