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The Stats Guy: The Australian jobs on the rise, and the ones disappearing

The jobs that lost the most workers and the jobs that gained the most tell us our future.

The jobs that lost the most workers and the jobs that gained the most tell us our future. Photo: TND/Getty

I love looking at the changing composition of our workforce between each census.

To me the jobs that lost the most workers and the jobs that gained the most are like a canary in a coal mine. Tweet, tweet.

Theses statistics indicate which industries are about to die and which are about to thrive. The job changes tell the story of how our economy restructured itself and suggests future developments too.

So let’s look at the around 1300 jobs that the Australian Bureau of Statistics officially classifies to see which job categories grew or declined between the last two censuses.

You might remember my previous column on the ageing of the Australian population. As ever more Australians reach their mid-80s the number of people requiring care is only going up.

Caring boom

By far the biggest job growth in Australia came from aged, or disabled, carers.

The establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme played into this growth too. We grew the crucial cohort of care workers from 132,300 in 2016 to 227,500 in 2021. Thats a massive growth of 95,200 workers (or 72 per cent).

Australia added a net 52 new workers every day in the care sector for half a decade. No other job comes even close to such a growth rate.

The bad news is that the ageing of Australia’s population has only started and the next 15 years will see even bigger growth. Australia must somehow find even more care workers.

This is a challenge of monumental scale and will define the quality of retirement for the whole Baby Boomer generation.

Policy and planning managers more than doubled in size over the last five years, adding 30,100 jobs to a base of only 21,300. What is a policy and planning manager, you ask? Good question.

According to the official definition they plan, organise, direct, control and coordinate policy advice and strategic planning within organisations. They are the quintessential managers needed to reign in the mess that ever more complex businesses create.

AI automation

Taken together, all professions containing the word “manager” grew by 29 per cent. That’s more than twice as high as the overall job growth of 13 per cent from 2016 to 2021.

Considering advances in technology and management software, as well as the emergence of innovative organisational structures like DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations) businesses might be able to operate with fewer managerial positions in the future.

We can reasonably argue that middle-managerial tasks are at a very high risk of being automated in the future.

Lots of jobs grow at around the same rate as the Australian population and hence make an appearance the top 25 list.

Teachers, teachers’ aides, general clerks, retail workers in general, and tradies are good examples.

Overall, jobs in professional services (think anyone in office wear typing away on a laptop) and healthcare saw a huge boom – not just in the last five years but over the last decades.

Looking at the 25 jobs that saw the strongest losses we don’t find a single healthcare job. What is dominating the declining jobs are repetitive white-collar jobs.

Shrinking secretary pool

Receptionists and secretaries are the two highest profile white-collar jobs that are melting away.

I wrote previously about how the loss of secretary jobs ultimately benefitted the overwhelmingly female workforce.

The tasks that receptionists and secretaries performed were partially taken over by software (calendar management software, bosses learnt how to type).

The professions then transformed and rebranded themselves as executive assistants. This led to a collective upskilling and improved pay. Automating tasks performed by secretaries ended up being a net positive for these workers.

Other jobs just died because technology made them redundant or replaced them with similar jobs. We can afford to have 13,400 fewer taxi drivers because Uber entered the picture.

Travel consultants? Ever heard of the Internet? Bank Workers? Yet again, the Internet.

A great example for repetitive white-collar job loss is data entry operators. Data is now captured digitally to begin win and we need fewer and fewer humans to manually enter data.

The 19,500 waiters that we lost over the last five years will eventually be replaced once we get enough workers back to Australia.

Job losses don’t always stem from a lack of need for a profession but rather from a lack of available workers. We lost international students and backpackers, who frequently held jobs in retail and hospitality, during the pandemic.

Like in any dataset, we yet again see the pandemic reflected clearly too.

The list of job losses and gains truly provides a good snapshot of the big picture trends we’ve seen in the workforce. Tweep, tweep. May the canary continue to inform us about the development of our economy.

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. Follow Simon on Twitter or LinkedIn for daily data insights.

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