The Stats Guy: More spare time or more work? What we will be doing in 10 years

How work in Australia will change in the next decade.

As we look 10 years into the future, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The New Daily, let’s explore how what we’ll be doing with ourselves in 2033 might be different … or the same.

We will still exchange our time for money. Don’t bet on a major shift like a universal basic income to have occurred by 2033.

As Australia continues its transition towards a knowledge economy, more jobs than ever will require tertiary degrees.

We will therefore still encourage our young people to go to university.

A few new-collar jobs will emerge. These are jobs in fields so novel that unis don’t offer relevant degrees just yet. Cyber security, crypto, and yet to emerge IT niches will fall into this category.

Generally, degrees will still very much translate into a juicy pay premium.

An ongoing challenge will be to encourage enough young people to learn a trade as the skills shortage will be particularly bad.

I’d go as far as predicting that we will have universal free TAFE in a decade. The pay premium that we offer TAFE graduates isn’t large enough to warrant a fee.

Due to the ongoing skills shortage, we won’t be able to afford putting even the slightest hurdle in front of TAFE degrees.

Savvy young tradies will commit to life-long learning, regular upskilling, and become solo-preneurs (or small business owners). This allows them to maximise their income.

Automation and robotisation won’t lead to mass unemployment.

Many low-skilled jobs will be more efficient due to technology, some jobs will even be made redundant.

This won’t lead to mass unemployment since our ageing population, a prolonged mining boom, and general economic growth will just create too much demand for labour.

Four-day week? WFH?

The current push for a four-day work week won’t amount to much either as the skills shortage stubbornly persists. To put it bluntly, spare time will remain rare time.

Hybrid work is the norm where possible.

As AI slowly takes over more repetitive tasks, the tasks that are left with workers are increasingly interpersonal in nature. These interpersonal tasks are best done in the office. We might well be spending less time working remotely in 2033 than in 2023.

General population growth, more knowledge jobs, and AI ensure that a bigger share of our work tasks are interpersonal and ensure busier and more vibrant CBDs than ever before.

On our office days we will be spending a big chunk of our time meeting with clients and colleagues in cafes. The CBD of 2033 is a busier and livelier place than ever, so don’t bet against inner-city commercial real estate in the long run.

Because our national business model continues to deliver prosperity there will be precious little pressure to diversify the economy – that’s especially the case for the mining powerhouse of Western Australia.

The Perth of 2033 will be bigger and richer but otherwise function just like the Perth of 2023.

Diversifying an economy while the current model delivers wealth is very difficult so we will continue our slow and gradual transition towards more knowledge work.

What about spare time?

By 2033 we will still waste our spare time by bingeing TV shows and playing video games. Whether we do this on our phones, big TV screens, or some sort of immersive metaverse technology doesn’t matter all that much.

Informing ourselves becomes harder … and easier.

In the coming years our social media feeds will be flooded with cheap AI-written narratives. Think of this as the golden age of spam. After a while we’ll find ways to counter these developments.

We will look to trusted news sources (like The New Daily) to act as curators of ideas. The public will also look to trusted human experts to act as curators of content in each niche.

Self-driving cars won’t be the norm by 2033, and our transport network should look much like it does today. More cars will be electric, but our cities will be just as car dependent as they are today. The demographic profile of Australia suggests a boom decade for cars.

Millennials, the biggest generation by far, will move into the stage of the life-cycle where households likely own multiple vehicles. Sure, Millennials are a bit greener in their world view, but the necessities of suburban family life should guarantee high Millennial car ownership rates.

At the same time the Baby Boomers, another huge generation, are too young throughout the coming decade to give up driving. For better or worse, the car is the main mode of transport for the next 10 years.

Only massive infrastructure investments could possibly reorient our biggest cities towards more sustainable modes of transport.

The persistent skills shortage and the commitment to addressing housing affordability make that unlikely. If governments commit to too much (albeit much-needed) infrastructure, the pool for workers available to build housing dries up quickly – a delicate balancing act.

On a personal level, we will form smaller households as we can expect the birth rate to drop below the current low rate of 1.63 kids per woman.

My previous column explained where we will be living, who moves, and who stays put.

I expect that by 2033 child care will be more heavily subsidised to ensure more women can return to the workforce and to give low-income families a more even playing field.

We know from neurological research how important a child’s first four years are for their intellectual development and future career prospects.

Virtually all low-income families will require two full-time workers in 2033 just to stay above water. Their kids are falling behind from day one.

Investing in universal free child care helps to break the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage since education remains the best predictor for future earning capacity.

I see strong political will in the younger cohort (aged 35 to 45) to tackle such intergenerational issues. In about a decade they will be in positions of power to implement such reforms.

Demographer Simon Kuestenmacher is a co-founder of The Demographics Group. His columns, media commentary and public speaking focus on current socio-demographic trends and how these impact Australia. His latest book aims to awaken the love of maps and data in young readers. Follow Simon on X (Twitter), FacebookLinkedIn for daily data insights in short format.

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