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1 001 New Zealanders' attitudes to tech

9 March 2020

Are New Zealanders afraid of robots and AI? One question that arose during our Technological change and future of work inquiry was whether New Zealanders were accepting of emerging tech, and how this compares to the attitudes of people in other countries.

The Productivity Commission surveyed 1 001 New Zealanders on their attitudes to tech in February 2020[i]. We asked a subset of questions from a 2017 European Commission survey in 28 EU countries. Some useful observations can be made:

  • Seventy-one percent of New Zealanders responded that the current impact of the most recent digital tech was positive on their own quality of life. Yet New Zealanders are, overall, much more negative than people in EU countries about the effects of emerging tech on the economy and on society.
  • New Zealanders are very positive, relative to people in EU countries, about the quality of their own digital skills – applied to their daily life, their use of digital services, and their current and futures jobs.
  • New Zealanders’ attitudes to robots and AI are somewhat mixed. They are relatively negative about socially positive uses of robots (eg, to perform dangerous tasks), yet relatively unconcerned that robots would “steal peoples’ jobs”.
  • New Zealander’s responses to most questions did not vary much by age. However, older New Zealanders are less confident than younger ones that their digital skills are sufficient for a hypothetical future job.
  • New Zealanders with incomes less than $50K showed less favourable attitudes to digital tech than those earning more than $50K. This effect was particularly pronounced in responses to the statement “robots steal people’s jobs”. There was little difference between those earning $50–100K and those earning above $100K.
  • Just 40% of New Zealanders believe that New Zealand is keeping up with the best in the world when it comes to the digital transformation of industry. Room for improvement! 



[i] The cross-country comparison is not perfect, due to differences in timing and sample selection. In particular, we cannot be sure whether, given frequent news coverage of robots and AI, and gloomy predictions of their effects on workers and society, attitudes in all EU countries have not shifted in the intervening three years. The observations here are subject to those caveats.

Image: Rethink Robotics