Albanese pledges Labor focus on tech industry jobs

James Riley
Editorial Director

Federal Labor has adopted the Technology Council of Australia’s target of increasing the number of Australians employed in tech-related jobs by 340,000 to 1.2 million by the end of the decade.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese will on Thursday unveil plans to work with the tech sector on an industry plan to strengthen existing technology companies, create an environment that builds new startups, and to grow the number of technology jobs in this country.

Anthony ALbanese
Anthony Albanese: Backing the local technology sector

The commitment is a huge win for the sector, opening up a range of possible policy discussions that create new pathways for local workforce skill development, and programs that enable high-value technology expertise to be imported into the local innovation ecosystem.

“As we look to the future, there are real opportunities for Australians to be employed in the sector and drive future economic growth,” Mr Albanese says.

“Too many experienced workers and businesses have left our shores due to the failure of the Morrison Government to back tech jobs in existing and emerging businesses.

“Technology is a core pillar for our economy and is considered equivalent to the third largest sector in the economy behind mining and banking. It stands as Australia’s seventh largest employing sector,” he says.

Announcing the plans with shadow Industry minister Ed Husic, Mr Albanese says the Labor focus on an additional 340,000 jobs would help more Australians get the skills needed to participate in well-paid work in a fast-growing industry.

Using Tech Council research, Labor says the Australian tech sector currently contributes $167 billion annually to the economy, accounting for 8.5 per cent of GDP.

Mr Albanese says Labor will back the tech sector to reach its potential to contribute $250 billion to GDP and another 340,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

Labor would meet its targets through already announced plans for 465,000 fee-free TAFE places and an extra 20,000 university places focusing on high priority areas such as tech, as well as tech-heavy support for sovereign capability goals through its $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.

Startup support would come through its Startup Year program that would offer 2,000 Commonwealth supported places at accredited university accelerators, giving support to aspiring entrepreneurs to commercialise their ideas and scale their products and services.

Mr Albanese will also reaffirm plans for government procurement reform to support Australian tech startups and existing technology firms by leveraging Commonwealth spending through Labor’s Bur Australian Plan.

Tech Council chair Robyn Denholm says tech jobs are a good deal for Australians: “They are well paid, secure and flexible.”

“Setting this goal [of 1.2 million jobs in tech by 2030] matters because it sends a clear signal to Australians that employers will sign-up to create these jobs, and there is a shared commitment to help Australians work in them, including through reskilling and training opportunities.”

“We want to be an industry that creates great jobs for Australians, and that partners with governments to make sure Australians can get into them,” Ms Denholm said.

Ms Denholm, who is also chair electric car firm Tesla, says the council’s research makes clear that jobs in the technology sector are generally more secure, better paid, and more diverse than other industries – including generally lower gender pay gaps compared to other high-paying sectors.

The research shows that the tech sector also provides good opportunities for those who are not university graduates – 42 per cent of workers in the tech industry do not have a university qualification. The pay gap between someone with a VET qualification and tertiary degree is just 2 per cent. In other high-paying industries, it is 18 per cent.

“There is also a tremendous opportunity for women in the technology industry. While we know we don’t have enough female representation, women looking to forge a career in the tech sector face a much smaller gender pay gap than other industries,” Ms Denholm said.

“What we have in our industry is a trifecta, secure, well-paid, flexible jobs available to all people regardless of background or education. We want Australians to aspire to a job in our industry and we want to help them find the pathway into their career.”

One senior Labor figure told the focus on job creation in the technology sector was a good indicator for growth and improved productivity across the rest of the economy.

The strength of employment growth in the tech sector was a good indicator for the health of the rest of the economy, given the horizontal underpinning that the technology industry provides across all sectors.

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