Job Security in Australia: No longer ‘Job for Life’ or ‘Career for Life’

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Having a ‘job for life’ no longer exists. The workforce has been undergoing a massive transformation over the last three decades and currently the average Australian stays with their employer just 3 years and 4 months –
only a third of the way towards long service leave!

If this plays out in the lifetime of a school leaver today it means they will have 17 separate employers in their lifetime.

Moving jobs faster than ever before

Australians are used to moving on, either voluntary or unwilling – such as in the case of a company restructure and being let go of work. The big shift that we’re seeing, however, is that it’s now not just no ‘job for life’ but it’s also not even ‘career for life’ or ‘industry for life.’ We are not just changing employer but changing professions, industries, and retraining as we go. As such we are needing to retrain and upskill, preparing to move out of a given career trajectory to remain future-proofed.

The challenge of a less diversified economy

This is a proven challenge for many, especially those past a certain age or in a regional area where the employment sector is less diversified. The areas which currently have the highest unemployment, such as North Adelaide in South Australia or West Melbourne in Victoria, are also the areas where the number one industry by employment is manufacturing. In these areas there aren’t as many options, which creates extra challenges for those seeking work.

The states that have relied on just a few sectors or very large industries such as Victoria or South Australia are now feeling the sting of increasing unemployment. There’s a lesson here for Western Australia which needs to ensure that it has a broad enough employment base to ensure that any slow-down in mining doesn’t have significant ripple effects on the economy. New South Wales and Queensland have done well as they haven’t just relied on manufacturing or construction growth but diversified their economies through education, tourism, innovation, finance, property, IT, and scientific and technical services.

Looking outside the box towards growth opportunities

Certain industries in Australia are shifting, and Australians in declining industries should look to where the growth opportunities are.

The Top 5 industries 30 years ago were all industrial (mining, utilities, manufacturing, construction, and transport) whereas today there has been a shift to professional industries (Top 5 are mining, technical, IT, financial, and utilities).

While once derogatorily referred to as the world’s quarry, it turns out that we are the clever country after all with more people than ever employed in science and technical roles. The Australian workforce has undergone significant structural change and we’ve moved from an industrial base to a knowledge base.

Additionally, it’s a small business nation with 2.1 million businesses – that’s one business for every 11 Australians – and a large proportion of Australians employed in small businesses.

Workforce unemployment in the days to come

It is expected that Australia’s employment rate will continue to rise above where it currently sits at 6 percent in 2014, and economists are expecting it to peak in mid-2014. The rate has been on a steady increase and is currently the highest it’s been in 13 years, showing a very clear trend with the rise not slowing. There are clouds ahead and while we’re not in recession territory, this is a significant watch area, particularly when looking at sub-segments of employment across the youth sector and comparing state by state.

Click below to see Mark McCrindle's latest interview on Job Security on Channel Ten's Wake Up:


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