The Future of Work Commission has received a number of excellent submissions on its issue paper and will be looking to put out a summary of these later in the year. However some submissions are worth sharing in their entirety and one of these is Göran Roos’ submission on behalf of the E Tū union. While this submission does not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission it is an excellent analysis of some of the challenges and opportunities facing New Zealand.
The analysis looks at the main transformational technologies likely to affect New Zealand: Information and Communication Technologies including Big Data &; Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence as well as internet-of- things; Advanced Manufacturing Technologies including additive manufacturing and industrial robotics; Industrial Biotechnology with specific focus on microbial consortia engineering and synthetic biology; Photonics; Advanced Materials; Nanotechnology; Micro- and Nano-electronics.
Roos argues that changing technology is seeing the middle part of the job market reduce while the low-skill end increases which could see real incomes decline. The largest impact of this is likely to be in the professional service industry e.g. law and accounting and industries facing obsolescence e.g. coal and parts of agriculture. His analysis of the proportion of jobs at risk in New Zealand is around 55 percent compared to 57 percent in Australia and e.g. 47 percent in Sweden. Roos argues we are also likely to face a skills shortage in the areas of interpersonal skills, creative problem solving and deep domain expertise.
The submission notes businesses are coping with the changes by putting more workers onto part-time variable hours or contractor status which is making people more dependent on Government assistance. He also notes countries who will be least affected by changes in types of jobs will be those which have the highest levels of economic complexity. All of these changes will have impacts on inequality in New Zealand.
Roos recommends on a national level a policy aiming at increased economic complexity combined with policies to address the skills mismatch in the present and future workforce, as well as a policy for providing dignity to those that will be left behind through smart social programs (some of which are already operating in other countries). On the firm level he recommends an increased focus on productivity improvement and non-price based competition. And on the individual level he recommends a substantially increased focus on and responsibility for continuous competence development as well as a high flexibility and acceptance for change.
Göran Roos will also be speaking at the Future of Work Commission’s conference on the 23rd and 24th of March. More details about the conference can be found here.
You can read the Commission’s Security of Work and Income issues paper this submission most closely relates to here.