Technology will kill many Kiwi jobs

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 09:10 07/11/2014
Alex Burton

Postie Steve Jellard's job is unlikely to exist in 20 years.

Arie Ketel
In which areas is retraining most likely?

Does your job have a future?

Share your stories, photos and videos.

Relevant offers

Almost a third of Kiwi workers believe their job will not exist in 20 years' time, according to new research.

EY's latest Productivity Pulse survey of 750 employees, which measures workers' views across seven industries from all levels within organisations, found technological advances were seen as the main driver of the death of the jobs Kiwis do every day.

Without investing, training and shifting workplace behaviour to encourage early adoption, many New Zealand organisations would fail to take advantage of the next wave of IT-driven productivity, the report said.

Futurist Thomas Frey has said by 2022, 1 billion jobs would "evaporate" as a result of advances in automation technology.

That accounts for one out of every four jobs.

By 2030, that number would reach two billion – roughly half of all jobs on the planet, Frey predicted.

EY Oceania advisory leader Bill Farrell said workers understood the need to adapt and re-skill continually to remain employable in a rapidly-changing labour market.

"The real question is how."

Employers and government needed to put in place clearer guidance and communication to assist workers to develop the skills and experience so employees had newer, broader and more market-relevant skills, Farrell said.

For the past three decades, technology had replaced lower skills and repetitive tasks but had not reduced the demand for jobs in itself.

Instead it has increased the intensity of work and the demand for skilled jobs.

However, the advent of emerging digital technology and automation could reduce the demand for certain jobs, Farrell said.

"This could be a game-changer in our ability to gain productivity improvements."

Hays Recruitment managing director Jason Walker said industries with jobs that could either be performed by a computer or outsourced to another country where labour was cheaper would phase out roles that were not economically viable.

But it is not all doom and gloom - despite redundancies in some industries, the number of jobs in New Zealand continued to grow, Walker said, adding that there were opportunities for people to up-skill if they found their industry was in decline.

According to Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey results for the September quarter, the number of Kiwis in jobs was up 3.2 per cent compared to a year ago to reach 2,346,000 people.

Walker said jobs were being created in high-skill industries such as construction, IT and finance, but the number of quality candidates was falling as competition for talent heated up.

It may seem obvious but digital skills had become a necessity for anyone looking for their next job, Walker said.

"We all live in a digital world and whether we like it or not, most of us now work in digital jobs.

Ad Feedback

"The digital revolution has touched the lives of virtually every consumer and business around the globe."

It was no longer enough to have a degree and solid technological knowledge.

Organisations needed employees who could be creative with interpersonal, leadership and organisational skills.

EY advisory partner Braden Dickson said today's graduates would have four or five different careers in their lifetime.

Fortunately, New Zealand's education system was well-equipped to deal with the changing shape of the workforce.

Students were trained to be able to problem solve and carry out project-based work in teams, he said.

"For older workers it probably is a bit of a concern."

It was harder for older people with family commitments to leave the workforce and retrain.

"That's where many workforces have a job to play in helping retrain and re-skill people."

Dickson said the survey results were not surprising.

"It has been going on since the industrial revolution."

The whole manufacturing supply chain area has been affected by technological changes to date and that was expected to continue, he said.

Dickson said the term "artificial intelligence" might be taking it a step far but that was the way things were heading.

FLEXIBILITY KEY 

Steven Jellard has been a postie for the past nine years, hopefully he'll be a postie for at least another nine, but he's philosophical about the possibility of his job evolving or even disappearing.

The 31-year-old starts work at 7am, sorting the mail at New Zealand Post's Ponsonby Delivery Centre, once it's sorted into street names and numbers he's on his bike.

Jellard said it would be sad to loose the figure of the local postie but those in the industry had been staring down the barrel of the possibility of job losses for a while now.

"I think we're all worried."

But the Aucklander said the postie would always be around in some form, whether they were on a bike, on a scooter or in a car.

Upskilling was the key to adapting and keeping a job in the industry, Jellard said.

There was also talk of automation when it came to letter sorting, he said, adding that some human handwriting still needed a human eye to decipher it.

"It's a shame it's dying out but everyone connects with Skype or Facebook."

Jellard said it would be nice to see handwritten letters make a comeback.

"It's something personal, it's secure and it gets there in the end."

While Jellard might have to cover as much as 20 km a day on his bike, laden with letters, he gets it to where it needs to go before he finishes his day about 2pm.

And if his job does cease to exist, the new father said he saw it as an opportunity to spend more time at home and look for different opportunities.

- Stuff

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content