New legislation and a central government body should be introduced to prepare for a world where machines carry out more and more tasks in the workplace, according to an Australian senate inquiry into the future of work.

The inquiry, set up in October last year, has recommended that the Australian government “prepare and commit to a long-term plan to prepare Australian workers, business and the economy for coming technological change.”

In a wide-ranging report tabled today the senate committee made 24 recommendations off the back of 163 submissions and eight public hearings.

The fourth recommendation may stand out to business leaders in charge of large IT projects; the committee recommended the “Australian Government introduce stronger legislative requirements for employers to consult with workers and trade unions before and during the introduction of major technological and other change in the workplace.”

Titled, Hope is not a strategy, the report recommended a new government body be established to coordinate analysis, forecasting and policy development on the future of work.

The committee also recommended the government should position Australia as an AI leader and develop policies which encourage lifelong learning, retraining and closer ties between industry, education providers and unions in order to meet the changing demand for skills.

Robots for hire

Globally governments are facing calls to take a proactive approach to education and training in response to predictions the rise of AI in the workplace will displace millions of jobs over the next decade.

According to a report released earlier this week by the World Economic Forum, the rapid evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles and eliminate 75 million between now and 2022. That’s a net positive, but the transition needs to be carefully managed.

The report The Future of Jobs 2018 notes businesses face urgent challenges include providing reskilling opportunities, enabling remote work and building safety nets to protect at-risk workers and communities.

“It is critical that business take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning, and that governments create an enabling environment to facilitate this workforce transformation. This is the key challenge of our time,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

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