Aussie retail workers are facing a “tectonic shift”, with AI and automation forecast to replace a quarter of retail jobs in just three short years, according to new research.
The research, from technology companies ServiceNow and Pearson, reveals that the retail sector will be the most heavily impacted by AI, with 323,000 full-time jobs to go.
New tech jobs will be created to help retailers adopt AI, but the research suggests this will only be about 80,000 roles, leaving a net loss of almost a quarter of a million retail jobs.
However, Brian Walker, CEO of retail consultancy the Retail Doctor Group, told news.com.au that both the forecast job losses and the suggested time frame were “ambitious”.
Instead, he expects the retail industry to grow by an additional 100,000 jobs over the next five years, bringing the total number of retail sector workers in Australia to 1.5 million.
Mr Walker said that while AI would increasingly be used by retailers to assist with supply chain management it was “less likely to replace workers in the customer-facing space and certainly not to the level that this would indicate”.
“AI may look a lot like the eCommerce boom,” Mr Walker told news.com.au.
“That’s been with us for about 30 years and we’re still only at about 70 per cent of retailers that are web enabled.”
According to the research, other industries likely to face significant job losses are:
• Finance and insurance (23 per cent or 128,000 jobs)
• Manufacturing (18 per cent or 154,000 jobs)
• Professional, scientific and technical services (12 per cent or 157,000 jobs)
• Healthcare and social assistance (8 per cent or 153,000 jobs)
Overall, it’s estimated that AI will result in the jobs of 10 per cent of the Australian workforce – or 1.3 million jobs – being consigned to the scrap heap by 2027.
It’s estimated that, in total, only 465,000 new jobs will be created to implement the switch to new technologies, leaving a gap of more than 800,000 jobs.
However, ServiceNow claims additional “creative and collaborative” jobs will result from the rise of technology.
“In the retail industry, this could mean new demonstration roles or customer assistants, while in finance it could lead to more personal banking services.”
The research reveals that jobs with high levels of repetitive and technical tasks are the most at-risk.
These include bank workers, bookkeepers, account clerks, checkout operators and finance brokers.
Based on an analysis of the skills involved in many jobs, the research suggests that many of these workers may be able to undertake “career pivots” into areas of skills shortages.
For example, it said:
• Sales assistants could become call centre team leaders or childcare workers
• General clerks could become ICT support technicians or copywriters
• Checkout operators could be customer service managers
• Account clerks could become web designers or ICT support officers
• Store people could become school teachers or visual merchandisers
• Bookkeepers could become legal executives or web developers
ServiceNow Australia and New Zealand managing director Eric Swift said: “The automation revolution has begun.
“Throughout history, we have used machines to eliminate repetitive work and by embracing AI, business leaders and governments have a huge opportunity to make work better.”