REGIONAL Australia could be the big winner from a Federal Government push to have more people working from home.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Monday the government was committed to having 12% of Australian public servants working from home within eight years.
She announced the target, an 8% increase on the current number, on Monday to launch National Telework Week.
The government obviously sees telework as the perfect vehicle to promote the benefits of the National Broadband Network, which is being rolled out around the country at a cost of close to $40 billion.
Telework, which Ms Gillard described as a "big part of the future of work in Australia", is a flexible work arrangement where employees are able to work from home or other locations away from the office, using broadband and digital technology.
Ms Gillard also used the launch to reveal the findings of research by Colmar Brunton and Deloitte Access Economics, which found teleworking could create the equivalent of an additional 25,000 full-time jobs, including 10,000 in regional Australia, by 2020-21, as well as boosting annual GDP by $3.2 billion.
The researchers also found 70% of people living in regional and remote parts of Australia not currently employed would take up telework if it was available to them.
Ms Gillard said Australia, and regional areas in particular, were in a "dynamic time of change".
She cited examples of the way technology was already being harnessed outside the cities.
"Based in regional Australia, a clothing story that saturated its own market in its regional town and now trades around the nation and around the world," Ms Gillard told the Telework Congress in Melbourne via videolink from Canberra.
"These are the kind of things that we wouldn't have imagined as job possibilities in regional Australia five, 10, 15 years ago but are there now for people to get those jobs and get that work and have that highly skilled work in regional Australia. We can't see all of these future possibilities but we certainly can get ready for them."
And she did not miss the opportunity to spruik the benefits of the NBN, which she said would make working from home increasingly viable and allow people to stay in regional areas without harming their careers.
"The NBN will help unlock the potential of telework to boost productivity in the workplace, reduce commuting time and urban congestion and allow employers to compete for the best employees, no matter where they are located," Ms Gillard said.
The Prime Minister said companies such as Cisco, Telstra, Westpac, Medibank Health Solutions, Microsoft and KPMG were already using telework to retain and attract skilled staff and make cost savings by reducing pressure on office accommodation.
The inaugural National Telework Week runs until Friday, with more than 130 companies and organisations having committed to the week as official partners.
A series of teleworking trials will begin in the first half of next year across a number of Australian Public Service departments.
WORKING FROM HOME
Research by Colmar Brunton and Deloitte Access Economics found:
- 66% of people with disabilities who are not in the labour force would take up telework if it was available to them;
- 74% of people with family or carer responsibilities who are not in the labour force would take up telework if it was available to them;
- 60% of people nearing retirement age would take up telework if it was available to them, and;
- 70% of people living in regional/remote Australia who are not in the labour force would take up telework if it was available to them.
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