“If you’re sitting in an office pushing text around on a Word document, or entering data in an Excel spreadsheet, this is a job that’s already being highly automated. If you’re still doing that – these things will disappear quickly.”
Dr George said accounting was a good example of a profession likely to be disrupted by automation.
He said the number of accountants in Australia was projected to grow from 186,400 to 193,600 over the next decade, a tiny annual growth rate of just 0.4 per cent.
“This growth is slower than the rest of the economy at 2.6 per cent per year,” Dr George said. “We estimate 45,800 future accounting jobs could be replaced by technology.
“We found that economic growth will still drive the need for accountants. However, the nature of an accountant’s job will quickly evolve as tasks are both automated and augmented by technology and this will impact future demand.
“Simple robotic process automation in the back office of major companies across Australia – these technologies can quickly replace those routine tasks you do in an accounting job.”
But accountants, like finance brokers, he said, would be well-equipped to move into cybersecurity, an area identified as having high future demand. Accountants had transferable skills such as being able to process data, meet strict deadlines, consult others, and provide technical advice.
“As the labor market shifts, there will not be enough talent with the right skills,” Dr George said.
“Companies, therefore, need to rethink recruitment and retention strategies and allow for reskilling and role repositioning.”
A report by the Productivity Commission released this week, which found Australia is falling behind global peers, highlighted the role of technology in productivity growth but said tasks within jobs were more likely to be automated than whole roles being extinguished.
“This reflects a growing demand and premium for those distinctly human skills that are hard to automate – such as judgment, critical thinking, synthesis, or empathy,” the report said.
“Considerable automation of tasks within jobs is occurring over time, and could be a larger force than the automation of complete jobs.”