Bangladesh population

Census data shows technology and an aging population are reshaping Australia’s workforce

The country’s workforce is changing rapidly as Australians study more, some jobs become superfluous and an aging population demands more care.

The 2021 census, released in part on Wednesday, shows that technology and health care are transforming the job market.

In the decade to August 2021, the health and community services workforce grew by 50%, or nearly 600,000 additional employees.

Many of the fastest growing jobs are those providing care for the elderly and coinciding with the growth of the National Disability Insurance scheme.

They include elderly and disabled caregivers (110% increase over a decade), occupational therapists (110% increase), audiologists and speech therapists (100% increase).

Australia’s tech workforce grew even faster over the same period, growing by 164%.

Computer programmers (up 91%) and business and systems analysts (up 69%) were particularly in demand.

Australian statistician David Gruen noted that both industries relied on skilled migrants to meet growing demand.

More than four in 10 nurses and carers were born overseas, he said.

“A foreign-born share of 40% is significantly higher than the average for all occupations of 32%,” Dr Gruen said.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of computer programmers were born overseas, with India being the main source of workers.

Census data released in June showed India had become the second largest source of migrants to Australia.

Farms employ fewer people and the agricultural workforce is aging.(ABC News: Mark Bennett)

Automation is also changing the workforce, albeit gradually.

Typists, for example, were among the largest cohorts of Australian workers just 30 years ago. There were 41,000 keyboard operators left last year, down from 228,000 in 1991.

The agricultural labor force has also shrunk considerably, from 212,000 a generation ago (in 1991) to 140,000.

Agriculture now has the oldest employees of any industry.

When school is out, we continue to study

A man looks at several computer screens, which display code.
Security sciences and artificial intelligence are the fastest growing qualifications.(Provided)

The latest census was the first to show that most Australian adults gained a qualification after leaving school.

Among those aged 15 and over, 51.7% had obtained a certificate, diploma or degree.

That’s compared to less than one in four people a generation earlier.

In fact, a master’s degree is now almost as common as a bachelor’s degree was 30 years ago.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the fastest growing fields of study were security science and artificial intelligence.

Dr Gruen noted that migrants were more likely than other Australians to have post-school qualifications, particularly those from India and Bangladesh (82% each).

A snapshot of the pandemic in Australia

The census – a national household questionnaire conducted every five years – took place amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in August 2021.

At the time, the Sydneysiders and Melburnians were locked down, and residents of the NSW, Victoria and ACT region were set to join them.

The data collected shows some of the effects of these health restrictions.

More than 7% of workers did not work any hours during the week preceding the census. This compares to 3% in the previous census.

The pandemic has also toppled some industries while fueling growth in others.

The number of Australians working as tourism and travel advisers has more than halved from the previous census in 2016.

Meanwhile, the ranks of delivery drivers have increased by more than 70%.

Dr Gruen said the latest data, when explored in detail, would provide “fascinating insights” into the working lives of Australians during a pandemic.