The Labour Party has mined a rich vein with its Future of Work initiative, with a majority of chief executives agreeing not enough is being done to prepare New Zealanders for a future where technological disruption and robotics will remove many jobs.

An overwhelming 63 per cent of CEOs said more needed to be done.

"People are not going to get better economic outcomes in the future by doing the same jobs as they do today," said Greg Lowe, chief executive at Beca.

"As the world becomes more globalised, we need to ensure skills are rising across the board. Uplifting the skills of all New Zealanders is a vital component of a future economy with better incomes."


An energy boss noted, "the pace of making workers redundant is accelerating. The ability to re-skill is unlikely to keep up with this. New Zealanders can keep serving each other coffee, but it's the ability to compete for export-capable talent that is most important."
Labour has been vocal in its call for forward thinking and early preparation for a future with different requirements to succeed in the workplace.

"There is no doubt that the future of work is full of opportunity," said Grant Robertson, Labour's shadow finance minister. "New technology is set to drive a wave of productivity and innovation that will generate significant wealth for those who seize the opportunities.

"On the other hand it is also set to grow inequality and leave many behind, with work and income less secure and success more reliant than ever on having skills and expertise that you can apply widely."

The pace of making workers redundant is accelerating. New Zealanders can keep serving each other coffee, but it's the ability to compete for export-capable talent that is most important.

Robertson explained Labour had set up the Future of Work Commission to explore ideas and propose solutions to the changing workplace. "The outcome we have set for the commission is for New Zealanders to confidently face the changing nature of work and to have sustainable, fulfilling and well paid employment in the coming decades."

Spark NZ chief executive Simon Moutter said though it wasn't perfect, Labour was at least looking in the right area.

"I agree that the challenge of ensuring New Zealand is fit for a digital future, and encourage and developing the digital talent we'll need in the future is a significant one. I do question, however, whether the issue is defined as 'the future of work', rather than the 'future of income'."

South Pacific Pictures chairman John Barnett said it should not be a political issue. "It is a fact which all parties should recognise and prepare for. Business already knows it."

Demographics in both rising and established countries stand to have a major impact on the shape and population of our work forces over the coming decades.


What may have an ever-larger impact however, is the change that improvements to automation, robotics and artificial intelligence could bring.

Only 19 per cent of chief executives are confident the available education and training system in New Zealand is sufficient for this future state.

Several chief executives praised Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce for his focus on tertiary education.

One ICT chief said it wasn't just a matter of upskilling for the sake of doing it, but rather, New Zealand needs to make sure skills are being taught that businesses need.

"There is a disconnect between many tertiary courses offered and what businesses need," he said. "Students are taking on loans, but the courses aren't lining up with the meaningful jobs students are seeking, which will justify their time."