Grant Robertson: Planning for future job changes

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Image / iStock
Image / iStock

You might have thought from some of the media commentary that the only thing being considered by Labour's Future of Work Commission was a Universal Basic Income, such is the level of excitement created by our consideration of that idea.

But it is much more than that. The Commission is looking at a comprehensive plan for how we ensure there are decent work opportunities and secure income for New Zealanders in a world that is changing faster than we have ever seen before.

And it is changing fast. Automation is set to wipe out nearly half the jobs that exist right now within a decade and a half. Australian research says that a school leaver today will have 15 different careers in their working life. We already have people in precarious jobs, feeling insecure about their prospects. The same old, same old approach is not going to cut it.

A starting point has to be technology, because the disruption it is causing is driving much of the change.

Everyone needs to have access to it, wherever you live or whatever your circumstances. We are calling this digital equality. It is the modern version of saying that everyone deserves a fair go - except this time it is about getting us all connected and knowing how to make the most of technology.

The next big area is in education and training. While we cannot guarantee exactly what future jobs will entail, we do know for sure that having an education that allows you to adapt will be vital. With so much information at our finger tips, the key will be the ability to use that information - to be creative, entrepreneurial, solve problems and understand the world around us. The education system needs to support these attributes and be the start of learning for life. Labour has already put forward our plan that would see everyone entitled to three years free training or education after secondary school, and there will be more bold ideas like that to come.

READ MORE: Larry Williams: Basic income proposal would mean big tax hike

But learning for life isn't just about the school leavers - it also has to be for those who are already in the workforce. Just this week we have heard that 500 people are set to lose their jobs at NZ Post. We need to make sure everyone is getting the chance to re-train and update their skills before their jobs disappear. We can't stop the technological changes, but we can make sure that there is a just transition for those who are affected.

Alongside the challenges of the future of work, there are also opportunities. As we have gone about the Commission's work over the last year we have been blown away by the amazing entrepreneurs we have met who are using technology and finding new ways of doing business. We want to support them to build our wealth from the ground up. This means encouraging small businesses and social entrepreneurs. Not just in our cities but also by supporting development in our regions that is sustainable and high value.

And yes, we want to make sure that as all these changes happen that we help Kiwis have income security. Because with the changes that are coming we want you to know that you can provide for you and your family.

The Future of Work is an exciting project, and we are rapt at how many new and interesting ideas are out there.

We can't afford to be looking in the rear view mirror for the answers, we have to look ahead and plan for a future that gives everyone a fair shot at success. We owe our children and grandchildren nothing less.

Grant Robertson is the Labour MP for Wellington Central.

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