The Government has announced $14 million funding to train up lower-skilled workers as their jobs increasingly come under threat from artificial intelligence and automation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins on Thursday announced a boost to programmes looking to improve the reading and maths skills of workers.

"Automation and artificial intelligence are increasingly affecting jobs meaning New Zealand needs a population with high-level literacy and numeracy skills," Ardern said.

The fund is open to employers who have generally lower-skilled staff and pays for them to hire specialists to come in and teach.


The money is spread over four years and adds to about $30 million allocated towards workplace education programmes to 2022.

So far it's been taken up by 64 businesses and 3500 workers. The new money is expected to reach another 1500 staff.

In 2016, about 12 per cent of New Zealand adults only had NCEA Level 1 or lower literacy skills and about 61 per cent of them are working.

"Putting a bigger focus on literacy and numeracy is something employers have told us they want, starting in schools," Hipkins said.

A Productivity Commission report in April noted previous studies predicting nearly half of New Zealand jobs would come under threat from automation, and that the risk was significantly higher for lower-skilled employees such as drivers and labourers. However, it concluded that because of the difficulty of forecasting technological change it was not useful to make a single prediction.

It found about 38 per cent of adults wanted to take part in more learning but couldn't.