A new age of automation has rekindled the promise of more leisure time and provided an opportunity for discussion about what makes a ‘good life’, says Professor Greg Marston, a keynote speaker at the Australian Social Policy Conference held at UNSW Sydney in late September.
Marston questions the placement of paid work at the heart of Australian culture and policy.
“Automation and advanced artificial intelligence raise profound social, economic and ethical questions about the meaning of work and humanity, the role of governments in managing new risks, the purpose of education systems and what values and principles will define the ‘good society’ of the future,” says Marston, who is head of the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.
“If the transition is managed well, there will be an opportunity to recalibrate the centrality of paid work in our lives. If it is managed poorly, the cost will be widespread technological unemployment and greater inequality and economic insecurity.”
The conference, hosted by UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), addresses the challenges facing policy makers, practitioners and researchers, says SPRC acting director Professor Carla Treloar.
“Understanding how our populations, institutions and governments think about society, work and poverty is central to shaping our futures,” says Treloar.
Other keynote speakers at the conference included Lane Kenworthy, professor of Sociology and Yankelovich chair in Social Thought at the University of California, who spoke about social democratic capitalism; and Jill Manthorpe, professor of Social Work at King’s College London, who draws on examples from UK social policy to highlight the need for greater financial literacy among policy and social welfare practitioners and commentators.
Leading social policy and governance expert, Bingqin Li from the SPRC, focused on social and economic inequalities across China. Robert Fitzgerald, one of the six commissioners at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, spoke about the unprecedented scope and achievements of the Royal Commission’s research program.