Australia will need an extra 100,000 information and communications technology workers by the end of the decade, but the sector suffers an “image problem” that could be hampering its ability to attract high achievers, a report has found.

The finding comes as a leading economic think tank estimates 40 per cent of jobs are at high risk of being wiped out in the next 15 years by computers and other machines. Health and mining jobs will be among those hardest hit.

The Deloitte Access Economics report, to be launched by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday, predicts the demand for workers with ICT skills will boom over coming years. However, the number of students enrolled in information technology courses remains significantly below that of the early 2000s.


Digital technologies contributed $79 billion to the Australian economy in 2013-14, up from $50 billion in 2011. Photo: Reuters
Television programs such as The IT Crowd – whose main characters are socially inept computer technicians working in a dingy basement – portray the sector negatively while other professions such as law, finance and medicine are usually glorified in popular culture, the report says.

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“This could be contributing to the industry’s image problem among younger generations in particular,” says the report, Australia’s Digital Pulse, commissioned by the Australian Computer Society.

Deloitte Access Economics director John O’Mahony warns that Australia faces a “serious problem” if an ICT skills shortage develops.

Digital technologies contributed $79 billion to the Australian economy in 2013-14, up from $50 billion in 2011.

The report finds Australian schools lag behind in the use of digital technologies and calls for improved teacher training and a fast-tracked endorsement of the national technologies curriculum.

Employment in the ICT sector is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent per year until 2020, higher than the economy as a whole at 1.6 per cent. This equates to an increase from 600,000 workers today to 700,000 by the end of the decade.

More than 10,000 temporary skilled visas have been granted to ICT workers over recent years, including for key technical skills such as software development and programming.

A separate report, to be released by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on Tuesday, finds 39.6 per cent of Australian jobs are at high risk of being replaced by machines within 15 years.

The report, Australia’s future workforce?, finds well-paid, skilled jobs will be among those most affected.

Most mines will operate with a third fewer workers in the next decade, with less demand for geologists and surveyors.

Algorithms will also replace many jobs in fields revolving around customer engagement such as legal clerks, market research and sales.

Meanwhile, machines will wipe out some health jobs through increased automation in diagnostics, robotics assisting in surgery and machines dispensing medicines.

“Jobs in administration and sales (and many service areas) will disappear, while jobs in the technical professions and personal services will remain,” the report finds. “Second, many of those jobs remaining are characterised by non-routine thinking and especially high levels of originality and creativity.”

The report finds regions with a high dependence on mining, such as Western Australia and Queensland, will be hardest hit by digital disruption.

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