Melbourne, May 27 : The Australian service sector is at risk of losing over a million jobs during the next two decades due to current fixation for outsourcing work overseas.
One in 10 service jobs could be sent offshore, news.com.au quoted a report prepared for the Service Unions of Australia, as saying.
The service sector accounts for four out of five jobs and 80 per cent of economic activity in Australia and includes banking, insurance and finance, telecommunications, media and retail, as well as government services such as education, health and welfare.
"A worst case scenario could see Australia losing 1000 of these jobs every week offshore over the next 20 years," Finance Sector Union national secretary Leon Carter said today.
That could lead to a loss of 1.04 million service jobs during that time.
Just over 10.7 million Australians are currently employed in the labour market.
Qantas, Telstra, ANZ, National Australia Bank, Westpac and St George have been identified as the top six companies that have already outsourced work in data processing, IT and call centres.
The idea that consumers benefit from a banking job being done more cheaply overseas is just not true, Carter said.
IT jobs were likely to suffer the most under a push towards offshoring, but as bigger departments were sent overseas it would also take in myriad other jobs, even down to low-level general clerks.
Michael Spencer from the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, which prepared the report, said Australia could not just rely on the mining boom continuing forever.
Linda White, assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union, said Australia should not become too reliant on China to boost the local economy.
"What we need is a long-term plan that sees Australia as a service sector hub."
Stephen Jones, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, called for the establishment of a service sector taskforce, bringing together trade, investment and industry policy.
The report also recommends country-of-origin legislation for services to match similar requirements for manufactured goods, which would allow consumers to make decisions on which service providers they chose to support.
The report says free trade agreements need to be re-examined to ensure level playing fields for the service sector.
The recently announced tax system review should consider new incentives to retain jobs in Australia, it also said.