Posted: 18 Jul. 2019 05 min. read

The future of work is human

Skills are the job currency of the future

Anxiety around the future of work is palpable. Indeed, some even question whether there is a future of work; whether robots will take all the jobs, or whether full-time stable employment is a relic of the past.

Government is already, rightly, grappling with these questions. Policy makers are looking at how to ensure that our legislative frameworks support workers, while providing flexibility for employers. This can open a wide range of policy questions – from industrial relations to payroll and welfare, and everything in between.

Some housekeeping – busting the myths

Despite the hype, jobs in the public sector aren’t going away any time soon.

The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human
, the latest report in Deloitte’s Building the Lucky Country series, dispels some commonly held myths around the future of work.

  • Myth: robots will take our jobs. Technology-driven change is accelerating around the world, yet unemployment is close to record lows, including in Australia (where it’s around the lowest since 2011). New technologies will have the capacity to automate many tasks, but also create as many jobs as they kill, and employment is growing in roles that are hardest to automate.
  • Myth: employment will be unstable. Work is actually becoming more secure, not less. Australians are staying in their jobs longer than ever. Casual jobs are a smaller share of all jobs than 20 years ago, and that share hasn’t moved in over a decade. The rate of self-employment has also been falling for almost 50 years and is at a record low.

Skills are the job currency of the future

For every problem there is a job – and we’re not running out of problems. Yet what jobs are, and what they require, is changing.

In the report, Deloitte has examined the demand for skills, rather than occupations, across the entire Australian economy. We find that having one or two skills is not enough. In fact, on average, employers demand that each employee possesses 18 discrete skills. This includes a range of different skills – from technical skills like healthcare and compliance, to human skills like leadership and problem solving.

The demand for skills is growing so quickly that individuals are being taken by surprise. Today, the average employee is missing around 2 of the critical skills that their employer demands. If nothing is done, this shortage will only get worse. In total, we estimate that there will be a skills deficit in NSW of around 9.3 million by 2030.

Individuals, and leaders, clearly need to act. We need to upskill, reskill and refresh now, or risk not being able to fully meet the requirements of our roles.

Skills of head and heart
Skills of head and heart

Focus on skills of the heart

Of the 35 skills we examined, the skills most in shortage today were the skills of the heart. These are the human skills, like leadership and problem solving, which are hardest of all to automate. Yet these are also the skills which are seeing the quickest growth in demand.

It’s a similar story in the public sector. Most jobs require some technical ‘skills of the head’ – digital literacy, organisation and time management, writing and health care being some examples. But more require skills of the heart – customer service, leadership, resolving conflicts, innovation.

We find that the five skills in greatest shortage in the public sector today are:

  • Customer service (21% of all skills shortages in the industry)
  • Organisation and time management (15%)
  • Leadership (13%)
  • Resolving conflicts (12%)
  • Health care (12%).

Many of these are transferrable skills which are relevant in a range of industries and across a wide variety of roles.

Lead from the front

Before having broader conversations about the future of work, it’s time for some navel gazing, because leading the way, and upskilling the workforce, starts at home.

The NSW public sector is in fact the single largest employer in the state, with over 396,000 employees in 2018. That’s equivalent to almost 10% of all people employed in NSW.[1] Head count has grown by around 17,600 over the last decade.

While the Berejiklian Government has announced changes to the public service in the 2019-20 State Budget, commitments such as the Digital Government Restart Fund signal the need for additional skills across government, such as digital literacy.

The public sector has a great responsibility. Choices that are made about work in the public sector can directly impact literally hundreds and thousands of lives. Key actions should include:

  • Focus for on-the-job training. Skills needs are moving quickly; it will not be enough to rely on formal set-and-forget education in order to keep pace.
  • Embed ethical behaviour, diversity and inclusion in business decision-making and workplace culture.
  • Identify the skills that individuals have, and the skills which the public sector will most need.

If that wasn’t enough, with this comes the potential to affect greater good. As the largest employer, Government should lead by example - businesses can then follow your lead.


[1] Workforce profile report 2018


First Published on IPAA Ignite on the 15 July 2019

Meet our authors

Ursula Brennan

Ursula Brennan

National Leader, Public Sector and Public Policy

Ursula is the National Leader for Deloitte's public sector and public policy practice, coordinating services from across our business to support State, Federal and local government clients in delivering better outcomes for citizens. Ursula also leads Deloitte's national Business Case Centre of Excellence, providing advice to assist clients in securing funding for major infrastructure, ICT and reform programs. Ursula's previous experience includes a broad range of corporate finance engagements, including strategic reviews, mergers, acquisitions and divestments, business planning and capital raisings. Prior to joining Deloitte, Ursula spent three years with ANZ’s Merchant Banking division in London and Paris, focusing on cross border funding, and a further four years in industry as European CFO of an international company.

Jessica Mizrahi

Jessica Mizrahi

Associate Director, Deloitte Access Economics

Jessica provides practical policy advice and thought leadership for industry and government clients. She has guided projects in a range of industries, with deep experience in financial services, the digital economy and health. Jessica was a finalist for Deloitte Young Businesswoman of the Year in 2015, and previously taught economics to over 300 students at the University of New South Wales.