Thursday, May 19, 2022

Labor reveals promise for tech jobs – but it lacks serious ambition

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Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has pledged to work with the tech sector to help create an additional 340,000 jobs by 2030 if Labor wins the federal election in May.

While the headline in the opposition’s announcement is 1.2 million jobs, the sector already employs around 860,000 people and the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) last year set a target of 1 million jobs by 2025.

That means the Labor pledge is 40,000 additional jobs per year from 2025. During the pandemic, tech added 65,000 jobs a year.

Since 2005, jobs in the Australian tech sector have grown by 66%, compared to an average job growth of 27% across the economy. However, the local technology sector is still smaller than comparable economies such as Canada, with the country ranked 36th out of 38 in the OECD for its ICT trade balance.

Albanian announced Labour’s plan, saying that “too many experienced workers and companies have left our shores because of the Morrison government’s failure to support tech jobs in existing and emerging companies”.

Meeting the 1.2 million jobs benchmark by 2030 would increase the sector’s current 8.5% contribution to GDP from $167 billion a year to an estimated $250 billion.

Late last year, the TCA announced a partnership with Digital Skills Organization (DSO) in an effort to solve the country’s shortage of tech talent. DSO works with employers to develop a skills-based approach for digital talent.

The opposition leader said Labor will work closely with the technology sector, including the Tech Council of Australia (TCA), to develop an industry plan aimed at strengthening existing companies, building new ones and increasing jobs.

Albanian also stressed the importance of manufacturing, a sector that the Morrison government has sought to focus on through its Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

“Looking to the future, we have real opportunities for Australians to work in this sector and drive economic growth. I want a Future Made in Australia,” said Albanian.

“I want to make more things here. I want to have more jobs here. One of the things we see, also in this industry of course, is competing in a globalized world, and also in this industry. But what we see with jobs in the tech sector is the future growth that drives our economy and productivity. And it’s part of making our economy more resilient.”

The Labor leader said he supports the Tech Council and its ambitions for high-paying jobs.

Industries of the future need a government that supports them, not a government that fears the present and is terrified of the future. Good governments have shaped the future by partnering with the private sector to drive private sector growth. And this industry is an example of that,” Albanian said.

He sees TAFE and universities as the gateway to technical careers.

The employment proposal includes:

  • 465,000 free TAFE places and 20,000 additional university places, targeting skills shortage areas, including technology.
  • Creating jobs and skills Australia to plan for the country’s future workforce needs.
  • Strengthening our sovereign capacity through smarter public procurement and the creation of the National Reconstruction Fund to support growing businesses.
  • Support the creation of new businesses and jobs during the Startup Year, by offering 2,000 Commonwealth-supported places at accredited university accelerators.
  • Support the creation of new businesses and strengthen existing ones by leveraging Commonwealth expenditures under Labour’s Buy Australian subscription.

The technology sector is equivalent to Australia’s third largest industry, just behind mining and banking. By the end of the decade, it has the potential to contribute more to GDP than primary industries or manufacturing.

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