FutureworkNZ blog

BlogA blog by Commission staff to generate ideas and promote debate for our Technological change and the future of work inquiry.

We welcome robust, respectful and insightful thoughts and ideas. Please post your comments at the bottom of blog posts. Comments are moderated and won't appear immediately. 

About the blog

The Commission has completed its inquiry into Technological change and the future of work. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on this blog! Read the final inquiry report and recommendations to Government here. 

Zoom meeting

Is this the future of work?

14 April 2020 | Nik Green

Like us, most of you will be at home, keeping to your bubbles, isolating from others and maybe worki…


Can Kiwis be better chameleons?

25 February 2020 | John MacCormick

To succeed in an unpredictable and changing world, adaptability is the key. Let’s be chameleons. Tec…

Last post (almost)

13 February 2020 | Nik Green

This is our penultimate post on the FutureworkNZ blog. We’ve really enjoyed the process of testing o…


Decisions, decisions…

5 February 2020 | Nik Green

In my last post, I talked about how the rough and tumble of reallocation led to productivity growth,…


It’s all in the mix

3 February 2020 | Nik Green

In our first four draft reports, the Commission focused on questions like:

Is technology progress a…

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon platform fire

Debunking fallacies – couldn’t say it better myself

30 January 2020 | John MacCormick

Our technological change and the future of work inquiry has turned the hose on some burning platform…

Internet at home

Guest post: The Internet should be for all New Zealanders, s…

27 January 2020 | InternetNZ

The fact you’re reading this article online is a good indicator you are “digitally included” - meani…

Dr Amelia Sharman

So long, farewell…

24 January 2020 | Amelia Sharman

… auf Wiedersehen, adieu! Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu. . .

Dr Amelia Sharman

I dropped maths at school – what happened?

23 January 2020 | Amelia Sharman

In my final year of school, I completely dropped maths and science – resulting in a conference with …

Judy Kavanagh

Educating New Zealand’s future workforce

22 January 2020 | Judy Kavanagh

Do you remember your first day at school? The education I received was for a very different world th…

New Years resolutions

New Year’s resolutions

7 January 2020 | Amelia Sharman

The first week back at work after the new year is the most popular time to look for a new job.


Will there still be Santa?

20 December 2019 | Amelia Sharman

I’ve got some bad news about Santa Claus. The North Pole may be far, but it’s not too far to avoid t…


Where are all the part-time students?

19 December 2019 | John MacCormick

You’d think that with low unemployment and ever-improving technology for distance education, the pro…


From sewing machinist to software programmer

16 December 2019 | Amelia Sharman

I’m sure you’ve heard some version of this popular prediction – about two-thirds of children enterin…


Occupational drift

12 December 2019 | Amelia Sharman

New research by Dave Maré from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research for the Commission investiga…

Tiny home

Is NZ short of equity capital?

11 December 2019 | Dave Heatley

Low business investment is a problem for tech adoption.  Interest rates don’t provide a convincing e…


Why aren’t NZ businesses investing?

9 December 2019 | Dave Heatley

Crazily low interest rates but NZ businesses are not investing. Why not?

It’s an important question…


Generalist to specialist

5 December 2019 | Amelia Sharman

Both my parents are pretty handy – and they seem to have the right tools for most jobs in the garage…

Sushi train

Bite-sized learning

3 December 2019 | Amelia Sharman

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to micro-credentials, those bits of bite-sized learning c…

Job security

Policies for dynamic labour markets and productivity growth

28 November 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

If you’re at risk of losing your job, your best protection is to have lots of other good job opportu…

Cradle Mtn–Lake St Clair National Park

Getting the chop

25 November 2019 | Dave Heatley

I’ve been made redundant. There, I’ve said it. Admittedly, it happened a long time ago. In 1986 I st…

Push the car

Get more people to push – or fix the engine?

21 November 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

The Commission’s second draft report Employment, labour markets and income, for the Technological ch…

Redundancy pay – a redundant policy tool?

20 November 2019 | John MacCormick

Redundancy pay is a rather primitive form of insurance or “income smoothing”. It’s an old technology…

Detroit Industry

Redundancy pay – who and what is it good for?

18 November 2019 | John MacCormick

Redundancy (or severance) pay is an old technology to protect people from the risks and costs of job…

Boer war

Measuring wellbeing – lessons from the Boer War

13 November 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics’.

Australia on the globe

Migration and the labour market

11 November 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Trans-Tasman migration and arrivals from other countries have bigger effects on New Zealand’s popula…

John and Jack MacCormick

There’s someone for everything

7 November 2019 | Amelia Sharman

There’s a great new ad campaign running for Trade Me at the moment based on the slogan, ‘there’s som…

Tim Maddock

How dynamic is the New Zealand labour market?

4 November 2019 | Tim Maddock

Two new Productivity Commission reports tell us that the New Zealand labour market is characterised …


How many jobs do your skills prepare you for?

31 October 2019 | Amelia Sharman

When I was applying for jobs in London, an amazing place – although my economist colleagues just cal…

Jon contract

How effective are ALMPs?

30 October 2019 | Tim Maddock

The success of an Active Labour Market Policy (ALMP) will depend a lot on the type of programme and …

Growth of cities

More people and more jobs has changed New Zealand

24 October 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

48% growth in employment over 40 years! This is a remarkable success story for New Zealand’s labour …


Low spending on ALMPs is not a good reason to increase it

21 October 2019 | Tim Maddock

Based on OECD comparisons, New Zealand’s overall spending on Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs) a…


Forty years of change in the jobs Kiwis do and the places th…

17 October 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Over the last 40 years, New Zealanders – and people in other countries – have experienced big change…


Will Dalek chilly bins conquer the last mile?

16 October 2019 | John MacCormick

In Berkeley, California last week I met the Kiwibots – a tribe of 4-wheeled robots about the size of…

Carl Benedikt Frey

Into the Frey

14 October 2019 | Nik Green

If you’ve read anything about technological change and the future of work – or even if you’ve just G…

Child care

When is a policy that helps people be in work not an ALMP?

9 October 2019 | Tim Maddock

Answer: When it’s a childcare subsidy available to other low-income households.

School children

The confidence of youth

3 October 2019 | Amelia Sharman

Young people have a strong belief that technology will shape their future but what types of skills a…


Culturally diverse AI could enrich children’s learning

2 October 2019 | Amelia Sharman

I love the bold and colourful marae at Te Papa Tongarewa. The space is made up of a marae ātea (plac…

Biased algorithms – a good or bad thing?

2 October 2019 | Dave Heatley

Fears of social problems accompany any new technology. Not just new problems, as technology can re-i…

Secondary school students

Guest post: Secondary school students on work in 2030

30 September 2019 | Pat Cody

What do secondary school students think work will look like in 2030? Flying cars, genetically modifi…

Map without NZ

Left off the map – again!

26 September 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

This is a slide from Professor Richard Baldwin’s presentation about his new book The Globotics Uphea…

Too much (investment) screen time?

23 September 2019 | Nik Green

Is this the reason why New Zealand doesn’t feature more prominently on global business and investmen…

gig economy

The gig on women’s earnings

19 September 2019 | John MacCormick and Judy Kavanagh

Does gig work on digital platforms have a gender pay gap? The more flexible work options enabled by …

Distance learning

How important is human capital to productivity?

18 September 2019 | Amelia Sharman

Have you ever done a MOOC? After completing four separate degrees and ten years at university, you w…


How to insure against a workless future

16 September 2019 | Anthony Hall and Dr Nicholas Agar

There are two “expert” messages about the impact of the digital revolution on work that are hard to …

Tech and productivity over time

New Zealand, technology and productivity

12 September 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

The first of the Productivity Commission’s reports on technological change and the future of work is…


Shocks to the system

11 September 2019 | Nik Green

As a small country that’s far away from most of the world, it’s not surprising that many have worrie…

Bolt and Nut Australia

The nuts and bolts of automation

9 September 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Many, many things affect whether a firm will adopt a technology, and whether this adoption will be s…

Making digital inclusion ‘go viral’

5 September 2019 | Amelia Sharman

Can you ‘infect’ someone with digital skills? It may sound like an odd question but let me explain…

Digital inclusion

Digital inclusion: What do we know from people who don’t use…

4 September 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Forty-five percent of people who don’t use the internet say they have no interest in the internet or…

Looking beyond access

Looking beyond access to solve the digital divide

2 September 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Why is the Productivity Commission interested in the digital divide? Our terms of reference ask us h…

1932 image

We have better metrics than the labour income share. Let’s u…

28 August 2019 | Dave Heatley

A decline in the labour income share (LIS) is not definitive evidence of capital replacing human lab…


From Richard Pearse to the koru club

26 August 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

There’s a long lag between invention and any labour market effects from the mass adoption of technol…


Robots and frozen vegetables

22 August 2019 | Dave Heatley

Freezing 500 tonnes of vegetables a day, most days of the year. That makes for a significant manufac…

Seed cleaner

Why hang on to old tech?

21 August 2019 | Amelia Sharman

As the opening chords of Country Calendar play, feel-good nostalgia for rural New Zealand washes ove…


When tech does things humans never could

15 August 2019 | Nik Green

Technological progress need not eliminate jobs; automation can allow new and expanded worthwhile act…

Closed down no work today

It doesn’t pay to lose your job!

14 August 2019 | Tim Maddock

How well does NZ support people who face job loss?  

I feel fortunate. In my working life – 3 ½ yea…

Technological change and the future of love

Technological change and the future of love

12 August 2019 | John MacCormick

Online matchmaking has radically changed the way people search for love.

Technological change

Is tech change really accelerating?

7 August 2019 | Tim Maddock

Accelerating or decelerating? Just about all the media commentary about the future of work says that…

Low-emissions economy

Climate change policy, technological change and the future o…

6 August 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

It’s always a big day for the Productivity Commission when the Government announces its response to …

Robots in Japan

Can robots help fund more attractive places to live?

1 August 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Robots are going to take our jobs, right?  Well, maybe. The available evidence provides conflicting …

Miford Sound by Dave Heatley

Why do the Danes like tech?

31 July 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Denmark is a lot like us. A small country and with an open economy and lots of fiords and sounds.


Moon landings, automation fears and commissions of inquiry

26 July 2019 | Dave Heatley

The 50th anniversary of the moon landings got me thinking about 1960s tech and work.

Straight line to the mountains

The perils of straight-line forecasting

24 July 2019 | Dave Heatley

Skills scarcity is great. At least when it’s your skills in demand.

Who should invest their money between workers’ ears?

22 July 2019 | John MacCormick

Training is an investment in “embodied human capital” – assets stored in workers’ heads.


Blocking agri-tech doesn’t mean we can block its undesired e…

18 July 2019 | Dave Heatley

New tech. A traditional local industry.

Mt Tasman and Fox Glacier

What to do when forecasts diverge?

17 July 2019 | Dave Heatley

The nice thing about forecasts is that you have so many to choose from.

At work at home

Can tech-enabled flexible work close the gender pay gap?

15 July 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

The converging roles of men and women are among the grandest advances in society and the economy in …

What makes a job a good job?

11 July 2019 | John MacCormick

There’s an old joke about an economist searching for their keys under a street lamp.


There’s no place like home

10 July 2019 | Tim Maddock

Why don’t people move as often as economists expect? 

Some regions in New Zealand have much higher …

Easter Bunny Dave Heatley

The demand for statisticians and Easter bunnies

8 July 2019 | Dave Heatley

The right job in the wrong place. For many, that’s the reality of job search in New Zealand’s less p…

Artificial intelligence

Could AI be the answer to our productivity woes?

3 July 2019 | Judy Kavanagh

Regardless of the technology hype, we’re in a productivity slump worldwide.

Houston café

Reading past the job-loss headlines

27 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

“Machines take jobs” cry the headlines. A journalist friend once said the media only publish two sto…

Beach by Dave Heatley

Is the post-2012 acceleration in automation tech sustainable…

26 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

Can automation tech keep improving at the current rate? 

First, how good is today’s AI-enabled soft…

Which technologies drive concern over the future of work?

24 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

Biotech. Nanotech. Cleantech. Gene tech. Cloud computing tech. Successive waves of technological cha…

The future of volunteering

20 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

I only know one economist joke. A plane carrying economists plummets towards the ground after its en…


Guest post: Land use and the future of work

17 June 2019 | Phil McDermott

Flexible land-use planning complements a complex, dynamic and unpredictable employment environment. …


Career is a verb, not a noun

17 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

career (v) move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way.

Scenarios and choosing a future

14 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

Can New Zealand choose its own future of work? The submissions and feedback the inquiry has received…

Pick a path

Pick a path

13 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

Technology is an irresistible force, emerging from inventors and relentlessly changing the nature of…

Dave Heatley

Is the price right?

11 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

Prices affect firm decisions. Government policy affects prices, and in doing so indirectly affects t…

Dave Heatley

The mothers of invention

10 June 2019 | Dave Heatley

Necessity is the mother of invention if camping without tent pegs, according to Kinley Salmon in his…

Girl boss

Girl bosses and skills to beat job-killing robots

5 June 2019 | John MacCormick

GirlBoss NZ urges us to take a strong gender perspective in our inquiry.

Trade Me jobs

Are ‘dumped’ workers pressured into ‘rebound’ jobs in NZ?

30 May 2019 | Tim Maddock

Are fast rates of re-employment always a good thing? New Zealand’s incidence of long-term unemployme…

Gig economy

The gig economy – flexible but tricky to measure

27 May 2019 | Tim Maddock

It is hard to find a discussion about the future of work without some reference to the emergence of …

Is the future of work happening now?

20 May 2019 | Nik Green

Many people worry about the impact of new and emerging technologies like robots and artificial intel…

Hype cycle

Don’t believe the hype

17 May 2019 | Dave Heatley

Predicting technology is the first step towards predicting the labour market impacts of technology. …

US imports for China

Offshoring US manufacturing to China – it changed politics, …

15 May 2019 | Dave Heatley

The US–China trade war is in the news again.

Will robots take my job

Job loss predictions – easy to make, hard to trust

13 May 2019 | Dave Heatley

This graphic caught my eye. It accompanies the article Robots and Us in today’s Otago Daily Times.

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