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Forget disruption, you should be worrying about our lack of tech

By Catherine Knowles
Thu 12 Sep 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As headlines read doom and gloom around the rise of technology and the potential threat to even skilled professions, the latest Productivity Commission report paints a different picture.

According to the new report, ‘New Zealand, technology and productivity’, it isn’t that New Zealand has too much technology it’s that we don’t have enough.

The Commission writes, “Technology adoption supports higher productivity growth, higher income growth and increased resources to pay for the things New Zealanders’ value. But the main problem facing New Zealand today isn’t too much technology, it’s not enough.”

In the report, the Commission explores the impacts of technology on jobs. In fact, it states there isn’t a lot of data available supporting claims that widespread disruption is coming soon.

In is undeniable that the future of work is not certain and there will undoubtedly be change over the next 10–15 years, but not at unprecedented levels, says the Productivity Commission.

“If the rate of technological change was accelerating, you’d expect to see evidence in the official statistics, such as faster productivity growth, more business start-ups, and more jobs being created and destroyed. But what we see in New Zealand and across the developed world is the opposite,” the Commission writes.

Inquiry director Judy Kavanagh says, “Rates of job destruction have actually declined in New Zealand since 2000. And recent rates of job creation are at a similar level to rates in the early 2000s.

“Technology has many effects on jobs and work, and most of these are positive. More technology has historically meant more jobs.”

“Technological change may pick up in the future but even so, it will take time to diffuse and affect work in New Zealand. We do a poor job of picking up technology quickly,” says Kavanagh.

“Regardless of how fast technology improves and spreads, there is much that can be done now to help New Zealanders to adjust to changes in work and employment, and to encourage the beneficial adoption of technology. The Commission will provide advice on these policy changes in its upcoming three draft reports,” she says.

The report is being issued Thursday 12 September for public and stakeholder review with the Commission now calling for submissions. Submissions are invited on the draft reports by stakeholders and the public by 20 January 2020. The Commission seeks ideas, opinions and information to ensure this inquiry is well informed and relevant.

For this inquiry, the Government asked the Productivity Commission to examine how New Zealand can maximise the opportunities and manage the risks of disruptive technological changes and its impact on the future of work and the workforce.

Three further draft reports will follow: Employment, labour markets and income will be released in October, Education and skills in November and Preparing New Zealand for the future in December. A final report will be presented to the Government in March 2020.

The New Zealand Productivity Commission, an independent Crown entity, was established in April 2011 and completes in-depth inquiry reports on topics selected by the Government, carries out productivity-related research, and promotes understanding of productivity issues.

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