New Zealand well placed to reap the benefits of technological change, says NZIER

21 October 2015

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc)
Media release, 21 October 2015
For immediate release

The pace of technological change is accelerating and the upcoming wave of automation may impact jobs and societies as much as occurred in the industrial revolution.   

That’s one finding of a new research paper produced for Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) by the NZ Institute of Economic Research Inc (NZIER). The paper titled Disruptive Technologies: Risks, Opportunities – Can New Zealand make them most of them? is available here, and our accompanying NZIER Insight is available here.

NZIER estimated the potential for jobs to be automated given advances in machine learning and computing power. Working with Colmar Brunton we also surveyed 2,300 New Zealanders on their attitudes towards disruptive technology, whether they thought their jobs are at risk and who should be responsible for the training needed for new jobs.

NZIER Principal Economist Aaron Drew says “the research is largely based on what we know today; it is not a crystal ball gazing exercise. The facts are that the level of global research and development, the inter-connectedness of people and economies, and the speed with which new technologies and business models are disseminated are all increasing. Jobs are already being displaced and new jobs are being created at an accelerating pace”.

But disruptive technology creates jobs too

US research suggests around 500,000 new jobs have been created over the past 15 years in occupations that did not even exist 15 years ago.

“Home grown companies such as Xero, Gameloft and Rocket Labs show we are not just adopters of technology – we are also able to push the frontier of technological change and create globally competitive new products and services”, Mr. Drew said.  

“To support firms like these, our education system needs to teach flexibility, adaptability and lifelong learning skills to prepare kids to enter occupations that we can’t even conceptualise yet”, said Mr Drew.

And Kiwis are positive about technological change

Some 60% of survey respondents said their productivity has improved in recent years due to technological change, with 82% already owning a smart phone. The survey also shows that Kiwi households are ready to embrace driverless cars, life-extending medical technology and solar panels (providing the price is right) in the near future.

“Our paper suggests a number of steps that can be taken to reap the benefits and minimise the adjustment costs of technological change”, Mr Drew added.  

The report suggests that regulators need to be more nimble in accommodating new technologies and business models, road spending plans should factor in the potential for huge efficiency gains as driverless cars become part of the network and businesses need to revisit growth strategies and worker upskilling programmes frequently to ensure they keep pace with technological change.   

“We can’t hold back the technological tide, but being better prepared will help ensure technologies work for us rather than against us.”

For further information please contact:
Aaron Drew
Principal Economist
021 999 942

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