April 16, 2023

How are new occupations identified and measured?

Is the current version of ANZSCO fit for purpose?

Emerging occupations are new, frequently advertised jobs, and are substantially different to those that are already defined.

Many of the occupations of today would have been outside the realm of imagination for people even just a few decades ago. Rapid technological advancements are disrupting entire industries and jobs. Take the latest revolution in AI and how it is making us rethink what skills are inherently human. It is easy to forget that such disruptions are not a new phenomenon.

The nature of our skills, jobs, and industries has always been evolving. The jobs that we need as we go through the fourth industrial revolution (the one we are currently experiencing) are clearly very different to those that first transformed manufacturing in 18th Century Great Britain. But technology is not the only driver. New jobs can emerge from demographic shifts (such as an ageing population), shifts in consumer preferences, regulatory changes, and even a global pandemic like COVID-19. While it is easy to retrospectively identify the dynamics of what leads to the emergence of new roles, predicting what the future workforce may look like can be a futile exercise.

What gets measured, gets managed

In Aotearoa New Zealand, we use the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) to classify all occupations, jobs, and skills in our labour market. Occupations are classified into five, progressively larger groups. Each occupation group can have several related jobs under it, with different titles that describe the same kind of work, requiring a similar set of skills (e.g., property manager, body corporate manager, building services manager, etc.).

Occupational classifications such as ANZSCO are used to understand labour markets, match skills to occupations, develop workforce strategies, identify areas of shortages, manage migration settings, etc. All of which contribute to the evidence base on good policymaking to guide and support the evolution of the labour market. Occupational classifications used even 30 years ago would not be very useful to us today. This is because jobs evolve and change over time. New jobs do not appear overnight, rather they develop and diversify from the existing base as the skills required to do a job change and become more specialised. For example, the 2013 version of ANZSCO includes the occupation ‘ICT security specialist’. This blanket category may have sufficed in the past, but as the number and types of cyber-attacks (such as data breaches, data theft, theft of intellectual property) grows, the occupation has diverged, and several specialised roles have emerged. In 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) updated its version of ANZSCO to reflect this (and several other) shift(s). The category was replaced by five new occupation groups:

  • Cyber Governance Risk and Compliance Specialist
  • Cyber Security Advice and Assessment Specialist
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Cyber Security Architect
  • Cyber Security Operations Coordinator.

The ABS has also added other new occupations that are becoming increasingly common such as agronomist, digital marketing analyst, content creator, user experience designer (ICT), DevOps engineer, etc. In addition to this, the ABS has also commenced a comprehensive review of ANZSCO to identify where further changes are needed. Statistics New Zealand is still using the 2013 version of ANZSCO, which is becoming increasingly outdated as the importance of the technology sector in our economy continues to grow at an unprecedented pace.

The figure below shows, for selected occupations, the growth/decline in their share of employment in our economy in the five years between 2013 and 2018. The rapid growth of some occupation groups could be an indication of increasing specialisation as individuals diversify their skills to differentiate themselves, based on growing needs. The falling share of some occupations could signal the end of these jobs in the future, as more tasks are automated.

Source: Statistics New Zealand

How are new occupations identified, and who decides which ones deserve their own category?

The emergence of new occupations is a gradual process that generally occurs over a few years. The identification and establishment of new occupations is a complex process and requires extensive consultation with employers, analysis of job postings data, analysis of current occupational data, and some subjective judgement. An important piece of the puzzle is looking at how the skills required to perform a specific occupation may be changing.

If the specific skills required to perform a role have changed or diversified significantly over a specific period of time, it is a pretty good indication that an occupation may be evolving. Physical occupations with a less complex mix of skills requirements (e.g., cleaners, labourers) are less likely to be disrupted. However, not every occupation with a changing set of skills is new. For example, in the case of marketing specialists, skills such as customer contact, market research, and retail knowledge are declining and are replaced by new ones like experience with Google Analytics, content management, and Salesforce.

For Urvashi article
Source: Australian National Skills Commission

The Australian National Skills Commission uses a combination of methods to identify emerging and new occupations, and validate their findings. This includes using data science techniques to link skills to jobs, alongside education and training, text mining, statistical analysis of labour force microdata, Census microdata, and job advertisement data. In addition to this, a public consultation is underway in Australia to inform a major refresh of ANZSCO. ABS has indicated that it intends to continue to use a targeted and user focused approach to ensure ANZSCO reflects the contemporary labour market, with minor updates possible every year and a comprehensive review every five years.

We can expect similar shifts in skills and occupations in New Zealand. The Government has created eight Industry Transformation Plans to promote new jobs, skills, innovation, and R&D in some key sectors including digital technologies, agritech, and advanced manufacturing. It is important that the tools we use to measure such changes are fit for purpose and reflect the reality of our rapidly changing labour market and the wider economy. Without the proper tools, it would be impossible to understand the intended, and unintended, consequences of major investment decisions by the Government on our communities and businesses.