So the news on Labour’s first paper from its “Future of Work” Commission revolves around “ex-Labour member” Phil Quin noticing some missing quote marks and National making gleeful diversions from it. At least Phil Quin isn’t attacking the party while being quoted as “Labour insider” any more.
But of course what is actually important is the content.
This is only the first paper, on Technology, and future papers will address Security of Work/Income, Education/Training, Maori/Pasifika, Economic Development and Sustainability (no doubt including Climate Change).
Technology is a good place to start, as it changes ever faster. We’re amazed at Uber, but it in turn will soon be wiped out as driverless electric cars change our way of moving about. Transport is the biggest sector of employment in the US (I don’t have figures for here), and those jobs will all be gone in a couple of decades. Indeed if you go through the list of employment sectors it’s a long way down before you find something that isn’t easily automated.
I work in high-tech manufacturing and our customers tell us they are looking forward to employing 1/3 fewer staff in 5 years’ time. We need to rethink how society is going to work with this massive reduction in current job types. Will we have mass unemployment, or find new sectors for people to work in? Or reduce our working hours? Keynes after all envisaged us working 10 hour weeks by now… We should have more time for leisure, community and looking after each other, but somehow we’re ending up with less currently.
Labour’s objectives for their commission are: Decent Work • Lower Unemployment • Higher Wages • Greater Economic Security • High-Skilled, Resilient Workers. Technology offers opportunities as well as challenges. We lose the tyranny of distance, we start with a better education system and more educated workforce than most, and we have a green reputation in a world looking for clean sustainable solutions.
If we move now on such things as teaching coding in every school, ensuring we hold out against software patents (are National about to fold on this for TPPA? Yet another loss and still no gains…), increasing R&D spend, finding ways of funding start-ups and keeping our successful companies, improving internet connectivity – all Labour suggestions – we can make sure that technology benefits work in Aotearoa rather than leaves us jobless.
I look forward to the other papers as this one obviously covers only one aspect – other issues like how we handle the change to contracting (and a country of “self-employed”) instead of traditional employment, or the impacts of climate change, will be very interesting to see what Grant Robertson and his Commission have come up with.
But mainly I’m glad that at least one of the 2 old parties is actually thinking about and planning for the future.
Bryan Gould has an excellent column in the Herald this week on a hoped shift leftward after all National’s privatisation debacles – charter schools, prisons, social services. The right’s ideology is showing after years of portraying themselves as “practical” “managers”.