“The year 2032 is the consensus view where the systems will be smarter and be able to do everything humans are able to do. We will all be hobby workers.”
One area New Zealand has an opportunity in is biotechnology, which is on the NZ Trade and Enterprise list of emerging industries, particularly for medical drugs and equipment. Food, beverages, creative industries like movies and software firms are all seen as homes for future jobs.
Reich stresses the need for world-class technical and vocational education. “We need to disabuse ourselves of the notion everyone needs a College degree,” he says.
New Zealand has a highly deregulated labour market but as a consequence rates high on the OECD rankings of ‘least restrictive’ in terms of employment protection laws.
Those looking to the future worry about the 10 per cent of workers currently in ‘temporary roles’ in accommodation, food, education and training, fishing, forestry and agriculture – many of whom are Maori, Pacific Islanders, female and sole parents.
Gail Pacheco, an economist from Auckland University of Technology, predicts the workplace will require flexibility and collaboration and workers will be increasingly insecure, in lower-paid sectors.
While young people do not have powerful political voices, Owens points to the insecurity felt on their behalf by their parents as a force now prompting action by the education and political systems.
“We do not have the full suite of answers on this,” he says. “We need a national discussion and a really good plan where we can say to young people: This is where we are going.”
Tim Murphy is a journalist and former editor of the NZ Herald.