People & Human Resources

Bookkeepers, payroll clerks labelled “redundant roles”: The jobs that will rise and fall over the next four years

Matthew Elmas /

Many of the jobs that define the way small businesses operate today will become increasingly “redundant roles” over the next four years as new technologies begin to be adopted by employers, according to research published last week.

A recent report compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has shed some light on the future of work, and the results could have widespread consequences for bookkeepers, accountants and small businesses more broadly.

Bookkeepers, payroll clerks, cashiers, accountants, sales agents, lawyers and administrative secretaries have all been earmarked as so-called “redundant roles” in the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report 2018.

Meanwhile, data analysts, artificial intelligence specialists, e-commerce experts and process automation specialists are named on a list of “new roles” predicted to become increasingly important to employers in the coming years.

The role of high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence and cloud technology are cited by WEF researchers as trends that would change workforces over the next four years.

Roles embedded in digital technologies are expected to grow, while those related to data entry or repetitive tasks are predicted to wane in importance.

The WEF’s research focused on survey data from medium-to-large businesses across the world, together accounting for 70% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A range of employment experts were also consulted in the formulation of the report.

While many Australian small businesses still rely on a myriad of accounting, legal, sales and administrative staff to complete important tasks, dynamics are changing, according to Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) David Fagan.

“[Businesses] need to have a clear line of sight on technological capabilities and what the changes are,” he tells SmartCompany.

“If they don’t do that in the next two to three years, others will do it for them … and they won’t be in business.”

Fagan, an adjunct professor at QUT responsible for its Real World Futures Program, has written a book on how digital disruption is changing the world and believes small business owners need to be paying attention.

He argues business owners will have to transition their workforce from labour intensive tasks of the past to jobs that support automated processes and focus on human-to-human customer interactions.

“The more human aspects of behaviour is what will preserve human jobs,” he says.

“That will then be done best when those human aspects can be combined with technology which will really inform people.”

The WEF’s “redundant roles”

  • Data entry clerks
  • Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks
  • Administrative and executive secretaries
  • Assembly and factory workers
  • Client information and customer service workers
  • Business services and administration managers
  • Accountants and auditors
  • Material-recording and stock keeping clerks
  • General and operations managers
  • Postal service clerks
  • Financial analysts
  • Cashiers and ticket clerks
  • Mechanics and machinery repairs
  • Telemarketers
  • Electronics installers and repairers
  • Bank tellers and related clerks
  • Car, van and motorcycle drivers
  • Sales and purchasing agents and brokers
  • Door-to-door sales workers
  • Statistical, finance and insurance clerks
  • Lawyers

The roles of the future, according to the WEF

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • General and operations managers
  • Big data specialists
  • Sales and marketing professionals
  • New technology specialists
  • Organisational development specialists
  • Software and applications developers
  • IT services
  • Process automation specialists
  • Innovation professionals
  • E-commerce and social media specialists
  • User experience and human-machine interaction designers
  • Training and development specialists
  • Robotics specialists
  • People and culture specialists
  • Client information and customer service workers
  • Service and solutions designers
  • Digital marketing and strategy specialists

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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