Technological change and the future of work


The Government has asked the Commission to examine how New Zealand can maximise the opportunities and manage the risks of disruptive technological change and its impact on the future of work and the workforce.

The Commission has released four draft reports: Educating New Zealand's future workforceTraining New Zealand's workforceEmployment, labour markets and income, and New Zealand, technology and productivity. A fifth draft report will be released on Firms and technology adoption. We’re seeking submissions on these reports by 17 February 2020.

Technological change and the future of work

NEW Subject choice for the future of work

To support our newly released report on Educating New Zealand’s future workforce, the Commission contracted the New Zealand Council for Educational Research to look at the ways in which secondary schools can help or hinder students’ ability to make choices for an uncertain future of work.

The research (divided into two parts: insights from the literature, and insights from focus groups), identifies a number of relevant issues. These include the continued existence of a “well-lit pathway” from school to university, the constraint that University Entrance can place on student choices, and the way in which patchy implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum’s key competencies can limit students’ ability to keep their options open. Both reports are now available to read:

NEW Educating New Zealand’s future workforce

In our fourth draft report, Educating New Zealand’s future workforce, the Commission looks at how the New Zealand education system could better prepare young learners for the world of work.

The report found that alternative pathways into work are obscured by the more “well-lit” pathway towards university. In schools, timetabling constraints and regulatory requirements (especially those related to University Entrance) mean that vocational pathways receive less attention, respect and resources. Careers advice in schools is highly variable. The tertiary system makes it hard for students to change course as they learn more about their preferences and the opportunities open to them. Students bear high costs from making initial mistakes or from changing their minds.

There are opportunities for improvement to be made in the current reforms to the education system. The report identifies opportunities to improve the promotion of innovation and good practice across the education system; support better curriculum implementation; remove constraints on students’ ability to pursue relevant learning and career pathways; improve students’ ability to switch in tertiary education; and address digital inclusion for young people.

We’re seeking public submissions on this draft report - read the report and have your say!

Training New Zealand's workforce

In our third draft report, Training New Zealand’s workforce, the Commission looks at how work-related education and training can support a more dynamic labour market.

In the context of the Government’s current reforms of the vocational education and training system, the Commission finds that more system flexibility is needed to meet the education and training needs of people in the workforce and for those soon to join it.

Specific recommendations focus on widening access to work-based education and training, reducing barriers to providing credentials that help labour-market dynamism, and making it easier to move money around the tertiary education system in response to demand. Find out more:

Employment, labour markets and income

In our second draft report, Employment, labour markets and income, the Commission looked to other countries for answers to help promote technology adoption. We found countries with policies that promote income security over job security – known as ‘flexicurity’ – tend to be more open to technology adoption. In this draft report, we outline three options for improving income security in New Zealand:

  1. Introducing portable individual redundancy accounts
  2. Mandating unemployment insurance
  3. Making changes to benefits and tax credits

We’re seeking public submissions on these options - read the report and make a submission!

Technology and productivity in New Zealand

Our first draft report New Zealand, technology and productivity looked at the factors affecting technology adoption and how technological adoption affects the labour market. It examined how technology affected work in the past, including in New Zealand. We found that:

  • There is little evidence in the available data that widespread disruption to work is coming soon.
  • The likely pace and scale of technological change in New Zealand will depend to a significant extent on developments overseas.
  • Technology and labour-market trends in New Zealand tend to lag behind those overseas, and will be more muted, if recent history is anything to go by.
  • The main problem facing New Zealand today isn’t too much technology, it’s not enough. New Zealand needs to embrace technology, not treat it as a threat.

Find out more, read:

Have your say

The Commission invites your comments, feedback or relevant evidence on the draft reports. We welcome separate submissions on each report, submissions on themes from multiple reports, or a single submission that covers all four reports. Please pick the format and approach that suits you. Submissions can be made via our website and are due by 17 February 2020.

FutureworkNZ blog

BlogWhat does the future hold for job quality and the gender pay gap? What should we do with the multitude of tech forecasts?

The Commission has a blog for this inquiry: FutureworkNZ blogEach week members of our inquiry team are posting their views, so find out what they think, read the latest blog posts here. We welcome your comments and guest posts.