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This report provides a snapshot of today’s Australian labour market, the forces that are shaping it, and the blind-spots that need to be addressed if we are to succeed in a competitive and disruptive 21st Century global economy.

Key findings:

  • Australian workers, industries and governments will continue to be challenged by technological disruption for the foreseeable future.
  • It’s not just the gig-economy that’s driving change: while platform work has emerged and is here to stay, traditional employment relationships still dominate the Australian labour market.
  • A focus on people, not only jobs is key. Government policy should reflect this reality. People need to be invested in from early childhood education through to retirement to ensure Australia’s labour force is engaged in lifelong learning. This will equip them with key skills to adapt with change.
  • Around 8 per cent of Australians are employed as ‘independent contractors’, with slightly over 100,000 workers employed full-time in the ‘gig economy’. Almost 2.6 million Australians, around 20.6 per cent of the workforce, are employed on a casual basis.
  • Those who do work as contractors often miss out on basic workplace entitlements, such as leave or superannuation. Australia’s entitlement framework and industrial relations system needs improvements to remain relevant in the future – as labour markets change and become more flexible.
  • An increasing number of independent contractors are not adequately covered by workers compensation, nor the types of insurance usually attached to superannuation accounts. Government should work towards strengthening and harmonising Australia’s complicated and multi-faceted workers’ compensation framework in response to the rapidly changing nature of work.
  • Australian workers are underutilised, with many engaging in freelance work in addition to their main occupation. More than 40 per cent of millennials are believed to have freelanced in some capacity.
  • Despite predictions of widespread workplace disruption, more than a quarter of Australian workers believe their job will continue to exist in 50 years’ time. This risks leaving Australian workers complacent, and may afect their participation in life-long learning and upskilling.
  • The Australian workforce is increasingly mobile: the Department of Jobs and Small Business estimated that there are more than 4 million movements into, out of and between jobs in the Australian economy every year.
  • Government has a key role to play – but industry must step up to the challenge, too. Both Government and industry need to explore how to embrace innovation while ensuring workers don’t get left behind. Australia could be doing more to innovate and respond to the changing nature of work.
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