NZ's robot overlords have other priorities

Technological advancement, such as the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, will considerably change the economic landscape and the suite of skills required within the labour pool. 

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According to a recent OECD Working Paper, almost 50 per cent of jobs (across the 32 country study) are likely to be materially impacted by automation, based on the tasks they involve.

"Almost 50 per cent of jobs are likely to be materially impacted by automation.”

Around 14 per cent of jobs have a probability of automation over 70 per cent and another 32 per cent of jobs have a probability between 50-70 per cent.

New Zealand though is a little different.

Variation across the countries is considerable but the median New Zealand job faces the lowest risk of being automated. 

In part, this may be explained by differences in the structure of the economy, such as the fact New Zealand has experienced relatively higher growth in professional services. However, the research suggests the structure within sectors, such as different occupational mixes, has a larger role to play.

A lower probability of automation may also be explained by a higher degree of labour-savings investment having already occurred.

This is particularly interesting in New Zealand’s case because while measured productivity has been decidedly unimpressive, recent business surveys suggest further labour-savings investment is just around the corner. 

By sector, the threat of automation is highest in manufacturing and agriculture. This makes New Zealand’s standing somewhat surprising on face value but agriculture actually only employs 4 per cent of working New Zealanders.

Services such as transportation, postal and food services are also highly automatable – most fast food outlets have an option to order online or via an app these days; the next step will be to get machines to make the burgers.

On the other hand, there is less risk of machines taking over the tertiary education and professional training industries. 

Up-skilling and re-training throughout a career is going to become more important, particularly within those sectors more susceptible to automation.

The good news for New Zealanders is that it appears the robot overlords have other priorities (for now).

Miles Workman is a New Zealand economist at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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