Employment growth in Australia is stronger in 2017 amid AI 'threats'

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jobs in Australia
A job advert for a local fast food outlet hangs on a wall in a shopping center located in central Sydney, Australia, in this March. Reuters/David Gray

Despite the “threats” that artificial intelligence may bring to the Australian workforce, the current year has seen solid growth in employment. July delivered strong employment growth, leaving it just behind February and November when it comes to total cumulative job growth over the past two years.

TD Securities’ chief Asia-Pacific macro strategist Annette Beacher is looking forward to another increase in employment. “We expect a fifth consecutive strong employment report for two main reasons: leading indicators such as ANZ job ads, skilled job vacancies and the NAB employment index all point to decent annual employment growth and in-house seasonal analysis points to a flat raw employment outcome, consistent with a large boost in the seasonally adjusted print of at least 35,000,” Business Insider Australia quotes her as saying.

The average forecast for Australia’s jobs report is centred around a boost in employment of 20,000. Individual forecast ranges from a gain of anywhere between 8,000 to 35,000.

Participation and unemployment rates are both tipped to remain steady at 65.0 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively. Employment growth has been stronger this year compared to last.

Beacher noted that the RBA remained focused on spare capacity in the labour market, which means wages are kept low. But the spare capacity could be absorbed speedily, and wages could rise faster than the RBA currently expects if full-time employment and hours worked continue to grow.

Furthermore, Beacher is expecting cyclical wage growth to pick up a little further. On the other hand, services-based wages growth is likely to be unchanged.

Meanwhile, experts have been talking about how AI would change the way workers perform their jobs over the next few decades. Andrew Charlton, economist and director of AlphaBeta, said that everyone will do their job differently as people would be working with machines.

Experts, however, are split on whether AI will create more jobs than it destroys. "The one thing we do know is the jobs that will be created will require different skills than the jobs that will be destroyed,” University of New South Wales professor AI Toby Walsh said, according to ABC.

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said that young people must stop thinking about a “dream job.” He explained that they must instead seek to develop a transferrable skill set instead of focusing on individual jobs. These include collaboration, financial and digital literacy, project management and the ability to asses and analyse information.

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