SUBJECT/S: Jobs figures, jobs of the future, digital disruption, future-proofing skills
BERNARD SALT: So, what does the Government have up its sleeve to ensure that the workers of today are prepared for the work of tomorrow? I spoke with Jobs and Innovation Minister, Michaelia Cash.
Minister Michaelia Cash, welcome to The Next Five Years. Minister, new figures came out from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to show that the net job growth for the year ending February was a record 417,000 jobs created, three quarters of which were in full-time employment. Minister, what are we doing right?
MINISTER CASH: We’re getting the economic fundamentals right, Bernard. We have now had in Australia, under the Turnbull Government, 17 months of continuous calendar-month jobs growth. That is a record - it has never happened before. But, Bernard, I think we need to put the statistics into perspective. So, under this Government in the last 12 months, almost 420,000 jobs created. Let's now look at job creation in the last 12 months of the former Labor Government - just under 89,000. So, the economy under the Turnbull Government is now creating jobs at almost six times the rate of that under Labor.
But I have to say, Bernard, I think the more interesting statistic is this: three quarters, as you said, of those 420,000 jobs were actually full-time jobs. In the last 12 months of the former Labor Government, the economy actually shed approximately 17,700 full-time jobs. So, you really do now have a very stark difference between the economic settings under a Labor Government and the economic settings under a Coalition Government.
BERNARD SALT: The problem, Minister, is that you’re creating a great level of expectation. What do you think the figures will be going forward? Can we maintain this pace?
MINISTER CASH: Well, certainly you’ve got to get your economic fundamentals right, as I said. There is a reason that we have delivered tax cuts to small business; there is a reason we are currently pursuing tax cuts across the broader business community; there is a reason we actively pursue global opportunities through trade agreements; and there is a reason that we get rid of red tape. Because, unless you get the economic fundamentals right, the economy does not respond. And, certainly, now we are seeing the economy respond with record job-creation numbers.
And, Bernard, I mean, you do a lot of work in this area. You’d know the projections over the next five years in particular are for jobs to continue to be created, and that’s a really good thing for Australians. But, you know, if there was a change of government, what you would then see - very much based on what Labor have said they would do - is a changing of those basic economic fundamentals, and you’d result back in what I’ve already described which is an economy that does not create nearly as many jobs.
BERNARD SALT: Minister, one of the key issues that I think worries many Australians, including myself, is the issue of digital disruption. Now, I get it that we are creating jobs and that’s terrific. But, in fact, there is a great deal of concern about digital disruption displacing workers. What is your take on how this is going to play out? If we can deliver jobs, then that's terrific. But there is still going to be quite significant digital disruption. What’s your take on how that’s going to play out over the next five years?
MINISTER CASH: Okay. Well, I think the first point you make is the absolutely important one: even though we may lose jobs on one hand due to digital disruption, what you are seeing is job creation. And, I mean, for every one job that is lost, 10 are being created. So, the good news is there are jobs being created. In terms of the digital disruption, it creates opportunities for business. I’ve met, obviously, with a number of industry bodies and industry leaders and it’s been put to me: 'Michaelia, what automation and digital disruption will do for us or has already done for us is to enable us as a business to get rid of the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs; to work with our workforce to upskill them to higher skilled and higher paying jobs.'
So, very much you’ve got to acknowledge that, yes, some jobs will go, but this is now presenting opportunities for people to embrace change, increase their skill base and take on higher paid jobs. And, certainly, in terms of the research that has been done, the jobs that are going to be created over the next five years will be the higher skill-based jobs and with that, attracts higher wages. That’s great opportunity for Australians to embrace.
BERNARD SALT: Minister, if you - we’re actually going to show a graphic in a few minutes which shows the net job growth between the last two censuses, between 2011 and 2016, which will show that the most job growth actually occurred in the retail industry as sales assistants - almost 70,000 extra positions, and also as aged care workers - another 24,000 jobs, in fact.
So, there is strong job growth, but there is also strong job growth at the lower end of the income spectrum. How do you see that fitting into the broader ecosystem of job creation - because we are creating high-value jobs, but we’re also creating low-value jobs? How does that work together in this view of the next five years?
MINISTER CASH: Well, often, Bernard, people will use these entry-level jobs as a stepping stone. And a stepping stone, as you know, is really important. People need to get workplace experience, and a lot of the time these types of jobs provide you with the ability to walk into a job, to experience business, to experience work, to actually ensure that you are getting relevant skills, and then to literally get in that lift, go up a floor, get out and take on another opportunity. So, I see these jobs as very, very valuable jobs. And, you know, I’ve met a lot of people who see these as rewarding career jobs. Why? Because they provide them with the flexibility they want in terms of working hours.
You know, Australians today in 2018, looking forward, in fact, globally, people want very, very different things from their workplace. You know, the concept of a job for life is just one that is not going to be around anymore, and I think, you know, the predictions are people will be working in a lifetime four jobs, five jobs, six jobs. So, very much the ability to get into the workforce at the entry level, to upskill yourself, to show an employer you’ve had that experience is valuable. But, also, for those who just want flexibility, these jobs still provide a valuable form of employment.
BERNARD SALT: Minister, what were some of your early jobs, perhaps in your university years?
MINISTER CASH: Look, in university, I’d study during the day, and I had a job at the burger place on campus, which was absolutely fantastic, because I could literally go between lectures, flip burgers, quite literally, and serve them, and then finish off and race to my next lecture. But I also had the opportunity. The Burswood Casino had just opened in Perth - I think it was the late 80s - and so at night I could go down to the casino, and back then we had the dinner and the show scenario, and I would literally wait tables, serve food and serve drinks and, at the same time, catch a bit of a show.
So, you know, for me, being able to work within the service industry (a) gave me valuable employment, enabled me to earn a wage, gave me flexibility, because I could work different hours that suited my study requirements. And I can assure you, in both jobs, I learnt valuable skills that I was then able to take into the next phase of my life.
BERNARD SALT: What industries or businesses do you think are going to yield most job growth over the next five years?
MINISTER CASH: Well, Bernard, I think the reality for all of us is the demographics of Australia are changing. We have an ageing population. So, I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that health care and aged care are going to produce many of the jobs over the next five years, as so are, though, professional services, IT services and also construction. So, again, it’s almost that natural shift in terms of where our population is going as an ageing society, and the expectations of what we will need over the next five years.
BERNARD SALT: What do you see as the qualities? If the jobs are going to be in health care and education, for example, what are the individual qualities that you think workers of the future are going to need? What could you advise parents to actually cultivate in their kids to make sure that they have the best chance of future proofing their careers?
MINISTER CASH: Look, it’s a really good question. Because I think, you know, perhaps what you and I 20 years ago needed is not going to be what a young person over the next five years, 10 years, 15, is going to need, in particular in terms of the ability to adapt, the ability to be flexible, the ability to embrace opportunity, to not be afraid of change. So, you know, certainly they are key attributes that young people are going to need.
And insomuch as parents are concerned, I look back to just the basic values my parents instilled in myself, my brother Andrew, and my sisters Melinda and Joanna - it was a strong work ethic. As they always said to us: to achieve, you work hard; to achieve more, you simply work harder and don’t ever make an excuse for yourself. So, I think you can always have that basic foundation of a strong work ethic, but at the same time, you know, encouraging your kids to pursue opportunity, to pursue, in particular, entry-level positions to gain experience at a young age, but also those key qualities now: adaptability, flexibility and the ability to literally embrace change, are really going to be important.
BERNARD SALT: I think the common denominator there is resilience. Great advice, I think for young people.
Minister, just as we close off, could I ask you: what is your favourite café meal?
MINISTER CASH: Bernard, well, I hate to say [laughs] - I know what your favourite café meal is. I don’t get out to cafés often, but if I do, I am one of those soy latte drinkers, unfortunately, but that’s only because I can’t drink milk. And, look, I’m also partial to some poached eggs. Why? Because they’re a bit of protein and they keep me going all day.
BERNARD SALT: Not smashed avocado?
MINISTER CASH: Okay, I admit it - I do like the odd avocado.
BERNARD SALT: Very good. Thank you very much, Minister Michaelia Cash. Thank you.
MINISTER CASH: Fabulous to be with you and thanks for having me.