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Australian House committee pushes digital retraining fund for displaced workers

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The Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources has said customer-facing workers in the traditional retail sector will be especially hit with the rise of online shopping in Australia, and has recommended a fund to help retrain displaced workers.

Writing in its Internet Competition Inquiry [PDF][1] report tabled on Wednesday, the committee said internet-based competition, while disruptive, is more likely to be positive for the Australian economy, with jobs in warehousing, transport, and logistics outnumbering those lost in customer-facing retail roles.

"The experience in the United States, where online shopping is much more established, is that the jobs created by ecommerce comfortably outnumber the jobs lost in the traditional retail sector," the report said.

Among its dozen recommendations, the committee said the government should create a "digital retraining fund" to boost digital literacy and skills of workers before they are displaced.

"Many Australian workers already have advanced digital skills, or have the means to comfortably support themselves to undertake training. Therefore, the funding should be targeted at Australian workers with relatively low-level digital skills or in occupations at significant risk of being replaced by digital processes," the report said.

"This includes many Australians currently employed in customer-facing retail roles."

The report also recommended that Canberra form a small business digital grants program that would be "small scale" and match the funds put up by business to "increase their capacity to take advantage of digital economy opportunities". The committee called out the small business grants from the Queensland government[2] of up to AU$10,000 as a model for the new program.

"Given the significant contribution of small businesses to Australia's economy,

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