Grant Robertson says New Zealanders can expect a radical shift in the Labour Party's economic policy ahead of the 2017 election as his party looks to prepare workers for huge changes in the labour market in coming decades.
Mr Robertson is in Paris for the OECD's Future of Work Forum, where politicians, businesspeople and unions are discussing how to adapt to the digital economy and the increasing casualisation of the workforce.
The shadow finance and employment minister is seeking ideas for his Future of Work Commission, a two-year project which will inform Labour's new economic development policies.
"If we look ahead two decades, there will be enormous change," he told the Herald from Paris. "Up to half of the jobs in the economy today won't be there."
That is because blue- and white-collar jobs are being lost to robotics, automisation and computerisation. The working environment is becoming more flexible, and people are more likely to have several different career paths over their lifetime.
Mr Robertson said addressing these changes would mean a radical change of direction for his party.
"I do think there will be some big shifts because that reflects the magnitude of the change that is happening," he said.
One of the ideas he has been discussing in Paris is Denmark's "flexisecurity" model.
The Danish system has three parts. It has flexible rules for hiring and firing workers, to make it easier to cut staff in downturns and easier to hire new staff when an economy rebounds. It has a generous unemployment benefit of up to 90 per cent for low-paid workers. And it has an "active labour market" policy, which means unemployed are helped into work, given guidance or re-trained.
Mr Robertson said New Zealand already had a flexible labour market, but it needed to be balanced with greater security and income support.
"Obviously you can't take a model and replicate it from one country to another. It's the principles of it that we are looking at and how something similar could be put in place in New Zealand."
A less certain working environment meant workers would have to upskill or retrain throughout their careers, Mr Robertson said.
"The idea that you can leave school or go to university and you never have to do anything else is gone now. Whatever system we come up with needs to be linked to the idea that training is an automatic part of your working life."
In Paris, he was told about French workers' eligibility for a "training account", which allows them to draw down a year's worth of training over their career. They can take the training a month at a time or all at once.
Preparing New Zealanders for the changing workforce will have to begin early - at primary schools - and will prompt changes to the education system and curriculum.
"The more traditional ways of assessing and learning are starting to become less and less relevant," Mr Robertson said.
Computer coding was already becoming more common in New Zealand schools. But schooling also had to become focused on problem-solving and collaboration, he said, and job advice within secondary schools would become more important to prepare students for multiple careers.
"I expect big changes in the education and training system to be one of the things that comes out of the commission," the Labour MP said.
The Future of Work Commission's findings will be published in November.