The employment landscape has changed dramatically since the dawn of the internet and the rise of the global economy. Our traditional Australian lifestyle of a 40 hour working week, Saturday and Sunday off, overtime rates and a four-week Christmas holiday is a whimsical memory only for some workers.
In a few short years a large chunk of the Australian workforce will be self-employed, work from home either full or part time, or travel interstate and offshore to fulfil employment obligations. Study and career options need to be future-focussed to ensure we are heading in a direction that suits our lifestyle choice.
Many impending changes to be forced upon Australians will be due to location. Our close proximity to enormous population centres in Asia is both exciting and a little terrifying. The opportunity to prosper is great, as is the potential to get trampled in the rush for economic positioning. Reciprocal trade agreements between Australia and Asian countries have been solidified by the Trans Pacific Partnership, and careers that were predominantly localised may soon entail a lot of fly-in fly-out travel. Sectors that will be affected include:
- Professional services
- Public service
- Academics and educators
Changes in the education sector
Students and educators need to start planning for massive increases in the mobile workforce, including understanding family and social implications that will ensue due to time spent away from home. Education is an example of an emerging power, and is already one of Australia’s biggest economic earners. Hundreds of thousands of Asian students study in Australia every year and the trend is increasing.
The next phase is Australian education institutions gaining a strong foothold in China and the rest of Asia. Another billion Asians will soon be entering middle-class status, and the growth magnet will draw significant resources, students and academics away from Australia. Are our tertiary institutions adequately preparing students for this development?
The teleworking trend
Teleworking is another employment/lifestyle choice that is fast becoming the norm for many people. Technology is racing ahead of our ability to fully comprehend the change, but we will soon become aware that many of us are needlessly commuting back and forth to a centralised office for work that could be more effectively performed at home. Savings in time and money will ultimately decide the workplace fate of many employees and employers.
Students need to be aware of impending changes in their chosen field. While some of us will flourish in a work-from-home environment, others will flounder and fail away from the stimulation of close association with colleagues and a vibrant office environment. In many cases, employers will need to replicate the close reciprocal relationships by providing online communication platforms and alternative socialisation structures to keep employees engaged and enthused.
Advantages of affirmative action
Fast internet speeds have enabled a host of changes, and the advantages can be great for individuals and entire communities. Less congestion and pollution in our cities, fewer cars clogging up the roads, and urban or rural hubs prospering are just a few potential lifestyle improvements for all to appreciate.
The changes mentioned above will not affect everyone, and for the bulk of the Australian workforce it will be business as usual – for now. However, the impact of change needs to be addressed if we are to individually and collectively derive the full benefit of the shifting employment landscape. Students, educators and governments need to act now to ensure chosen occupations reflect future lifestyle choices.