If you’re a bank teller, librarian, travel agent or cashier: beware – your job may no longer exist in 20 years.
These professions, along with many others, are likely to be extinct come 2034, as technological changes continue to revolutionise the labour market.
Phil Ruthven, chairman of business information analysts IBISWorld, says Australia is set to lose about four million existing jobs by 2024.
“Each year we lose 200,000 jobs in one area or another,” he says. “But we will certainly create that many and more to take their place.”
While the manufacturing sector has been decimated in the past five years, the job losses won’t continue at the same scale in the near future, simply because there aren’t enough workers left, says Ruthven.
“Saying that, the motor vehicle industry probably just won’t exist by the end of this decade,” says Ruthven.
However, he believes the current worries over jobs going at Holden and Ford are “very shortsighted and unnecessarily pessimistic”.
“We create that many new jobs every six weeks,” he says. “If you put off that evil day (that workers are made redundant) then the workers in these places get so old they can’t retrain.”
Ruthven also predicts defence manufacturing in Australia will become obselete – “because we’re not much good at it” and the food manufacturing sector will lose jobs because other countries can make and pack preserved foods more efficiently than Australia can.
Retail is also set to continue a massive shake-up according to Ruthven, who says online shopping will increase from six per cent of total retail sales now to more like 16 to 20 per cent by 2034. While that may create new jobs, it will mean heavy job losses in traditional retail.
In mining, he says driverless dump trucks may take over the role of humans. Mining giant Rio Tinto announced last year that its automated haulage trucks had already moved one million tonnes of earth in the Pilbara.
University lecturers, who are already facing insecure work arrangements, may also suffer as more and more courses go online.
“A very good lecturer can teach 1,000 students rather than 100 (online),” says Ruthven.
Associate Professor Elisabetta Magnani, of the Australian Business School at the University of New South Wales, says even more advanced technology will become a routine part of life and work in the next two decades.
She says the number of middle class workers will shrink, as those with technological and people skills rise to the top, and those in more repetitive or unskilled jobs sink to the bottom of the pile.
At risk are traditional manufacturing workers and others in customer service roles such as supermarket cashiers, says Dr Magnani.
“I would not really buy the idea that the manufacturing sector is dead in Australia, but it’s definitely going through a process of change,” she says.
She predicts traditional manufacturing workers will be replaced by those who can not only operate the machines, but build them, troubleshoot problems and communicate with a global team of experts.
As for check-out chicks and chaps, they’re likely to become redundant as self-serve checkouts proliferate and shoppers turn to online orders.
“These jobs with the human interface will all disappear, at least in supermarkets,” says Dr Magnani. “When we actually go to supermarkets it will just be for basic items.”
She says the health services industry will also go through a period of “creative destruction”.
“Some jobs will be destroyed and some jobs will be created out of the ashes.”
Medical staff will need to combine increasing technical knowledge with medical expertise, and of course – being human.
“The human traits of compassion and intelligence will be even more important than they have been in the past,” says Dr Magnani.
“Unfortunately with technology change we have to rely on these human traits to keep our jobs and make sure we are necessary.”
In a future labour force that cherishes technology skills and pays unskilled workers much less, Dr Magnani warns that we need to be wary of the impacts.
“We don’t want a society that kind of expels low skills,” she says. “We want a society that looks after all of our members.”
Facing extinction – other jobs that could go by 2034
• Social media experts
• Print journalists
• Video store attendants
• Assembly line workers
• Toll booth operators
• Middle managers