Technology and education critical to combating forever skills shortage

Forever skills shortage

We’ve long debated the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on jobs. Will these continually advancing technologies destroy jobs, or will they lead to a whole range of new opportunities, as previous waves of innovation have done?

But, the impact of the retirement of the baby boomer generation, as well as declining fertility rates globally, mean we may have been having the wrong conversation. In reality, we need technology to play a bigger role in our economy, if we are going to maintain the living standards we have become accustomed to.

While our labour market has traditionally ebbed and flowed with economic conditions, some economists are now talking of a forever skills shortage, with baby boomer skills unable to be replaced at the rate required and more than half the world’s population now living in economies with below replacement fertility rates, including in every OECD country, except Israel

To remain globally competitive, maximising the capability of our available workforce through world class education and training should be a priority for government.  But, unless we lean into the development and use of technology across our economy, the more we will rely upon immigration – a strategy that may eventually become less effective, given the global nature of the forever skills shortage.

The sustainability of high immigration levels, in terms of environmental impact and social impacts like housing affordability, is a consideration worthy of discussion, too.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.


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