Reading time
2 mins
June 19, 2019

The robots are coming for our jobs

But the future of work is still in our hands.

The key message from the OECD Employment Outlook 2019 is that the future of work will largely depend on the policy decisions countries make. Our labour markets have already experienced rapid change, and with the right policies and institutions in place, the opportunities that digitalisation, globalisation and longer lives will bring can be positively utilised, and turned into significant opportunities for the current and future workforce.

Despite significant uncertainty, and various doomsday scenario, it is highly unlikely that we are heading for a future with hardly any jobs for humans. However, we do need to prepare for deep structural changes coming our way. Managing these transitions well and avoiding growing disparities in our societies can be achieved if effective and adequately resourced policies are put in place.

It seems highly unlikely that massive technological unemployment will be realised in New Zealand in the near future. The OECD estimates that 10 percent of jobs in New Zealand are at high risk of automation. Moreover, the fact that a job could potentially be automated does not mean that this will actually happen and other factors such as cost, desirability, legal and ethical concerns, and of course policy decisions will influence the rate of automation.

We also know that even those who remain in their current job will experience significant change. In addition to the 10 percent of jobs at high risk of automation, the tasks performed and how they are carried out may change substantially in another 23 percent of existing jobs in New Zealand. These changes are therefore likely to affect many workers, regardless of where they work. Therefore, effective skills policies need to be put in place if we want to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of changes in the labour market. In a context of changing skills needs, it will also be important to address adult learning, as this can help prevent skills depreciation and obsolescence, and facilitate transitions from declining jobs and sectors to expanding ones.

You may like to read a previous article about the future of work.