The ASU and FSU, through a joint submission to the Senate Inquiry into Australia's Innovation System, have urged the creation of a services sector plan to ensure Australia can have a strategic approach to skills and business development in the sector. With offshoring decimating local service provision, we cannot expect Australia to remain competitive and become more innovative as other economies around the world grasp the challenge of a high skill based future.
The Senate Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into Australia's Innovation System was established to examine the "challenges to Australian industries and jobs posed by increasing global competition in innovation, science, engineering, research and education". The services sector (including information, communications, financial and administrative services occupations) has a key role to play in the future of work in Australia, but governments have largely ignored the sector in their policy settings.
As two unions representing services sector employees, the ASU and FSU have commissioned reports in recent years to examine the health of the services sector and unfortunately the results have been alarming. The reports (in 2008 and 2012) by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) outline that without policy intervention, more than 20,000 jobs have been moving offshore each year and we can expect between 700,000 and 1 million jobs to move offshore in the next 30 years.
Competing with neighbouring economies on wages has been the short sighted approach of many Australian businesses, when future-proofing our economy requires just the opposite. Australia must compete on service delivery, technology and innovation in order to have the edge in a global jobs market. By bleeding our local economy of high skilled service sector jobs, the ASU and FSU have told the Senate Inquiry we are undermining our ability to innovate in the future.
As the joint submission stated: "Long-term competitive success requires access to the best and brightest globally. Without people to create, apply, and exploit new ideas, there is no innovation process. In every country the talent pool must be actively nurtured, it is one of any nation's key assets and exceedingly hard to replenish."
The Federal Government needs to act to protect our future competitiveness by:
- Creating a services sector plan
- Offering more favourable tax treatment for companies retaining work in Australia
- Encouraging business to develop Australian-based skills and competencies
- Address skills shortages with new macroeconomic policy initiatives
- Vigorously promote new investments in services sector innovation
ASUnews: 80,000 service sector jobs lost overseas - Unions call for industry plan, 9 October 2012
Media: Australian industry calls for central innovation agency, by By Leon Spencer, ZDNet, 1 August 2014