The Future of…Jobs?

Written By: - Date published: 7:17 am, August 1st, 2015 - 78 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, Economy, employment, jobs - Tags: , ,

I’m not that impressed with the assumptions that Labour’s Future of Work Commission appears to be making: a shiny high tech world where NZ businesses invest in advanced automation and information technologies to make large portions of today’s workforce redundant.

It seems driven by memes sourced from periodicals read by the international business elite, by some Labour types who don’t understand the difficulties of welding stainless steel correctly.

As I worked in NZ high tech in the 1990s, Ruthanasia rocked on and manufacturing was closing down – it seemed like everyone was going to retrain as computer network engineers or database administrators, and those who couldn’t make the grade there were going to retrain to become web page designers or computer help desk technicians.

I recall the Government putting unemployed factory workers through courses to do just that.

Two decades on, that’s generally been proven to be exactly as farcical as it seemed to those involved at the time. It was like the promise of the “paperless office” v2.0

Further, Labour’s apparent position that “technology” is what is going to put Kiwi jobs at risk neatly sidesteps addressing the system truth: the insatiable drive for financial extraction behind it all and a multi-decades lack of strong strategic leadership from the NZ elite. So now we are entering the last few stages of an increasingly desperate and cronyistic capitalism’s catabolic disruption of society.

Here, the commoditisation of labour becomes absolute such that labour is considered utterly disposable or even unnecessary.

Or is it? Perhaps what we need is a futuristic but earthy left wing vision of resiliency which become a complete political economic agenda and call to action of its own. The “political economics of resiliency.” Yes, this would require a huge break from the neoliberal paradigm and mantra of being permissive to big corporate domination.

The following is my (partial) list for a real and relevant “Future of Work Commission.”

1) At every point, a firm distinction must be made between useful work that benefits society, and paid jobs. The former is often not organised as the latter, and the latter often does not accomplish the former. And if we do not push back austerity, economic decline, and increasing parasitic extraction by the 0.1% (and the FIRE economy) it will probably mean that less and less of the important work that society needs to be done will be organised in the form of sustainable paid jobs.

2) The focus must go back on human centred work that prioritises caring, compassion, inter-personal communication, creativity and collectivity. Much of this work will be very important in a society facing multiple increasing stressors, a lot of the work will be low-tech in nature, and only some of it will be able to be organised into decent paid jobs. This is where concepts like a UBI are extremely important in that it will allow people to live while getting vital non-paid work done.

3) Climate change and climate crises will become major impacts on NZ over the next 20-30 years. Any real and relevant Future of Work Commission must directly address this.

4) Transitioning off fossil fuels/fossil fuel depletion will become major impacts on NZ over the next 20-30 years. Any real and relevant Future of Work Commission must directly address this.

5) Kiwis must be mentored to conceptualise, contextualise, problem solve, innovate, generate novel solutions and use the fullness of their imaginations, while working together to co-operate and create, as the number one priority. Not to conform and code using current day tech (almost no 50 year olds saw a single computer at primary school – but most can use an iPhone or work PC just fine today).

Therefore any Future of Work Commission must focus on maximising the human potential of every Kiwi child in a very difficult future of climate change and energy depletion.

To my mind, a Future of Work Commission which is real and relevant needs to make big calls about what the future is going to look like and about some new political economic values for New Zealand. Labour has not yet hit the mark.

EDIT: the Keiser Report (starring the inimitable Max Keiser and Stacey Herbert) has just done a new episode on the future of work in a post capitalism era – including work in a “Star Trek” type universe where people do not get paid – but work in order to advance their reputations and their own satisfaction as people. The Kesier Report based their episode around this great article by Paul Mason in The Guardian looking at how post-capitalism is appearing in many big and small facets of daily working life: whether employed or unemployed.

78 comments on “The Future of…Jobs?”

  1. Molly 1

    I also think that the need for transitioning will give an opportunity for discussion about the real value of some employment and the creation of jobs that contributes to the other areas of well-being as well as economic.

    NEF (New Economics Foundation) has quite a few worthwhile publications to look through.

    A couple relating to a planned shorter working week are:
    21 Hours
    ” The vision

    Moving towards much shorter hours of paid work offers a new route out of the multiple crises we face today. Many of us are consuming well beyond our economic means and well beyond the limits of the natural environment, yet in ways that fail to improve our well-being – and meanwhile many others suffer poverty and hunger. Continuing economic growth in high-income countries will make it impossible to achieve urgent carbon reduction targets. Widening inequalities, a failing global economy, critically depleted natural resources and accelerating climate change pose grave threats to the future of human civilisation.

    A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.”

    Time on Our Side – (Book available for sale, but short pdf precis available for free)

    “Why time matters
    The economist John Maynard Keynes famously predicted in 1930 that rates of productivity, driven by technological change, would rise so rapidly that by the twenty-first century no one would need to work more than 15 hours a week. He was right about a lot of things, but spectacularly wrong about that. Certainly, productivity rates have risen dramatically since the 1930s. But in the last three decades, workers’ share of the surplus has not grown at the same rate. Meanwhile, markets have developed – globally – by encouraging people to buy and consume more and more. Faster cars, bigger houses, more furniture, ‘convenience’ foods and labour saving devices, gadgets galore, copious clothing and cosmetics, toys for children, toys for adults, flights and foreign holidays. All these things have become ‘normal’ accoutrements of everyday life in the rich world, and aspirational goods for many in the developing world. To afford rising levels of consumption (from our diminished share of productivity growth), we have had to keep on working long hours. By 2011, on average, all people of working age in the UK were putting
    in 36.3 hours’ paid work a week, while those working ‘full-time’ were clocking up 42.7 hours.

    In the United States, people work much longer.

    Even so, many have found their wages too low to meet the costs of all the shopping required of them to stoke and service the capitalist economy. So they’ve been encouraged to borrow money, shedloads of it. The need to service their debts locked them even more tightly into long hours of employment, while the banks turned their high-risk credit into dodgy ‘derivatives’ and gambled them away on the global markets.

    Introduction: A new economics of work and time
    We all know what happened in 2008. By this time, people on lower wages had accumulated debts they could not repay, however many hours they worked; and the banks ran out of ways to hide their losses. The global economy plunged into an unprecedented crisis, from which it has yet to ‘recover’. Millions lost their jobs in the wake of the crash and now have no paid work at all. The wealthier elites emerged unscathed. The widening gap between the rich and the poor, the powerful and power-less, is one of the dirtiest scandals of the twenty-first century. Running alongside this economic drama, hand-in-hand, has been the rapid rise of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accelerating climate change and the steady depletion of the earth’s natural resources – mainly a consequence of the high-rolling consumerism of the rich world. In a nutshell, people have been working long hours to earn money to buy stuff that’s made and used in ways that inflict profound and irreversible damage on the ecosystem on which all life depends. It’s clear that time, money, consumer goods and planetary boundaries are interdependent. The lines on the graphs are heading in the wrong direction. That’s a very good reason to think again about time and to change the way we value and use it, whether it is traded or not. Time is not just money. It is far more precious than that.”

  2. weka 2

    Very insightful CV. I would add that high tech jobs are part of the transition so long as they are done in the context of CC/PO. How do we build the best infrastructure with the tech and FF based resources that we have now that will enable and support transition?

    I’m also thinking about food security. In the most likely scenarios with CC, large scale industrial agriculture will increasingly fail due to extreme weather events, unpredictable weather, and overall changes to local climates that mean the current systems aren’t adapted. That and it being embedded in the global economy mean that food procution as a means of creating profit will diminish and we will have to move back to growing food for people to eat. The kinds of food production techs that are most resilient rely on people power, and those jobs will not be factory farming ones, but skilled ones that engage people in the meaningful work of growing local food for the community that people live in.

    Food miles are a significant contributor to AGW, so the sooner we get on with this the better. One of the most important things individuals can do is start supporting local food growers so that they survive the pressures from the global economy and its eventual collapse.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      That and it being embedded in the global economy mean that food procution as a means of creating profit will diminish

      I think that’s a little backwards.

      In times of high volatility, industries that serve the volatility can put their prices up and make extra profits. It’s only in times of stability that everything becomes a race to the bottom price-wise.

      Instability in the climate will reduce the food supply, driving up prices. Naturally with higher prices there is better scope for making profit.

      Food miles are a significant contributor to AGW

      Eh, not really. Shipping food around the world is actually very cost-effective in terms of resources. The huge cost is the last mile, from the supermarket to the consumer’s house.

      Focussing on food miles is actually missing the point – the problem is that people (cities) are living in places where they shouldn’t be. The food miles are a necessary input to sustain those people. It’s really the people themselves, and their location that are the cause of the AGW (classic example being the hot/humid places in America where most households run air conditioning 24/7 during Summer – they simply shouldn’t be in those types of buildings in those cities).

      • weka 2.1.1

        “I think that’s a little backwards.”

        Not if you read the whole paragraph rather than that one bit you quoted. We’re talking about different things. You’re talking about capitalist economics. I’m talking about the limits of the physical world. CC models suggest that there will be large scale failures of the industrial food system. The solution to that is to adopt resilient and sustainable food production (and those require people jobs not automated jobs). The issue isn’t how people will make profit, it’s what people will do when they start watching their kids go hungry.

        “Eh, not really. Shipping food around the world is actually very cost-effective in terms of resources. The huge cost is the last mile, from the supermarket to the consumer’s house.”

        In NZ, the biggest food miles are around the country. If you live in Dunedin and are importing kai from the North Island, then you are contributing to CC.

        The total NZ food transport EF for 2007 was 95,825ha of energy land, of which 28% was for households travelling to retail stores to buy food, 49% was for food transport within NZ, 9% was for transport from an international port to NZ, and 14% was to get goods from the point of production to an international port (table 2).

        http://www.sustainable-practice.org/content/new-zealand-2007-food-and-drink-footprint

        You can see there that importing food from overseas (both categories) is similiar to supermarket trips, but that food transport in NZ itself is by far the biggest factor. Nevertheless all of those reduce drastically if you source food locally.

        While what you say about shipping is correct on paper, it’s also a nonsense when you consider food produced in your neighbourhood. I agree about trips to the supermarket, but that’s fairly easily solvable by relocalising food and economies and changing transport habits.

        I don’t know what you mean about the location of people. Food can be grown anywhere, even in the middle of Auckland.

        Due to the shortage of the fuel, and so severe lack of transportation, a growing proportion of the agricultural production takes place in urban agriculture. In 2002, 35,000 acres (140 km2) of urban gardens produced 3.4 million metric tons of food. Current estimates are as high as 81,000 acres (330 km2).[11] In Havana, 90% of the city’s fresh produce come from local urban farms and gardens. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans worked in the expanding urban agriculture sector.[12]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Cuba

        “Focussing on food miles is actually missing the point”

        Well the point I was making was that in agreement with CV’s post, there will be an increasing need for useful work due to food security issues. Relocalising food production is a critical part of that.

      • Macro 2.1.2

        Shipping cost effective? Actually that is a big lie which humans turn a blind eye to. As an retired Naval officer I am fully aware of the vastness of the oceans, and I am also aware that the noise pollution in our oceans caused by increasing number of large container ships has grown substantially in the past decade.
        Scientists estimate that ambient ocean noise increased ten decibels (one order of magnitude) from 1950 to 1975.
        http://oceanlink.info/ocean_matters/noise.html
        http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/shipping/
        This not only causes problems for those monitoring large nuclear submarines – but also marine life.
        The true cost of massive shipping is that we are slowly but surely killing our Planet.

        • weka 2.1.2.1

          thanks Macro, that’s very interesting.

          It just makes sense on any kind of sustainability model to reduce transport of food (or most things probably).

          • Macro 2.1.2.1.1

            I came across this recently re reading a back issue of the Guardian while at the beach. This paragraph in particular leapt out at me

            Container ships, often assumed to be more environmentally sound than sending freight by road or air, are catastrophic in other ways too: collectively they produce more pollution than Germany; by 2008 the sewage they discharge had created more than 400 oceanic dead zones; in Los Angeles the sulphur dioxide they spew is responsible for half the city’s smog; the level of underwater noise they generate is rising by three decibels every decade and causing acoustic hell for fin and blue whales.

            http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/13/deep-sea-rose-george-review
            Last night we had a film at the local cinema here in Thames hosted by Denise Roche, “Bag It”, and an address by our local T3 reps and Denise to raise awareness on her campaign to drastically reduce our use as a society of not only “single use disposable plastic” , but of the harmful effects on the environment as well.
            http://www.bagitmovie.com/
            If you haven’t seen the movie, really make an effort to some time. It’s not only winning awards, but covers a topic that one might consider boring and ho hum in a very engaging, enlightening, entertaining and (at many times) amusing way – I loved it.
            The footage in particular of the mass of plastic floating in the sea in the North Pacific Gyre an area of the Pacific equal in size to the Continental US. was eye opening and heart breaking.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch
            Denise will be presenting a Petition to Parliament in the near future calling on the Minister for the Environment to declare single use plastic bags a “priority product” under the Waste Minimisation Act to restrict their use with a view to phasing them out entirely.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    I very much like your #1, that is well-expressed.

    For 3 and particularly 4, there’s not much that politically can be acknowledged. If Labour were to present a realistic view (not even a pessimistic one), National would poo-poo it, and instead offer their “brighter future” and say that they are “ambitious for NZ” while Labour are negative and scare-mongering and clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. While I’m all for honesty in politics, I’d much rather have Labour win the 2017 election so they can get in and make some necessary changes in the direction we’re heading, even if they can’t make all of them (’cause we know National will drag their feet, do the minimum possible, squander our most precious resource (time) and in many cases simply make things worse).

    Frankly, the public is not ready to discuss #3 or #4 to any true sensible level, because they just don’t believe the existing evidence available. Until such time as more evidence is available, trying to have Labour lead public opinion on these points is admirable, but ultimately unrealistic. The Greens themselves are very circumspect about #4 and their stance on #3 is watered down so as to be accepted by the public (and it’s still seen as extreme by many).

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Cheers Lanth, appreciated.

      Frankly, the public is not ready to discuss #3 or #4 to any true sensible level, because they just don’t believe the existing evidence available.

      I think you have a point here, although I will say that its not all about evidence, some of it is to do with what is perceived to be the mainstream opinion (and how that is shaped and manipulated).

      In general, this is a problem that is very worth while thinking about. IMO the gap between what we need immediately in order to have a chance of saving our hides on this planet, vs what our main political parties are willing to acknowledge and carry out, is growing wider in distance, not shrinking.

      It’s like diners in the banquet room of the Titanic having a competition with each other on who can stay coolest and calmest as dinner is served, even as the list of the ship increases.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        Public opinion moves in fits and starts.

        Euthanasia was bubbling along as a discussion point, but the lawyer who took her case to court got it into the public arena. Medical marijuana was bubbling along as a discussion point, but the boy with seizures got it into the public arena. TPPA has been bubbling along for years, but it’s only this last week that the MSM have really talked about it at length. Violence in prison has been going on for donkeys years, but it took a video of a fight club for the public to sit up and notice.

        These things aren’t predictable. The only topic that a political party has brought up recently that is of any note was Labour with the foreign house buyers in Auckland, and the full impact of that seems to have been fairly blunt – Labour had a compelling story to tell but nothing much more to back it up with, and the government replied with “just wait till October 1st when we start collecting the data”.

  4. Macro 4

    Well said CV the points you make are very important and need to be addressed if NZ is to transition successfully to the future.
    There would seem to be an even more pressing need for a Universal Basic Income allowing people to be be able to more readily transition from paid employment supporting the elite to work supporting society.

  5. Charles 5

    Yes, if I understand correctly – or at least what your ideas imply – correctly, I agree with you CV.

    As far as the Keiser Report you link to in the edit: the motivation to “grow as people” sounds ok, but “building reputations” invites as much focus on Empire building, and the associated unnecessary social suffering, as a society under current systems. Fitting the range of human motivations into a political context always get’s tricky, fast.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Understand your hesitation with the “building reputations” thing, Charles.

      I guess I mean more of an old fashioned conservative “building good standing in one own’s community” rather than the “self aggrandizement and self promotion” which seems much more common nowadays.

  6. keyman 6

    the automation wave is going to effect white collar workers and the professions all those lawyers being pumped out university may find a very different environment to what they expect its already happening who buys news papers anymore or even watches TV . content is streamed or downloaded news is sourced globally by powerful search engines herald sky tvnz tv3 and there jobs are irrelevant in reality and only one example as the next great wave of unemployment takes hold

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      correct. Technology is going to allow “dis-intermediation” to also take hold more and more, cutting out ‘middle men’, ticket clippers and distributors. Lots of those jobs will be going.

      One area to keep an eye on going forward is the effect of crypto-currencies on financial institutions.

  7. Ad 7

    CV, Ben says that there are other papers that will cover some of your areas.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      excellent, look forward to seeing them. Proposals for a shorter work week and less employment (but more useful work) are going to be very important, as some other commentators have already pointed out.

  8. Completely agree with you on #1 through #5. I think #1 is the biggest issue Labour needs to wrap its head around, not just in planning for the future of work but in appreciating why the endless focus on paid work as the best/only way of succeeding in life has hurt their base and undermined core principles of dignity, respect, and opportunity regardless of social status.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Thank you, Stephanie. I agree and think that Labour needs to broaden once more who it stands up for and speaks up for. I’m reminded of the criticism that Rob Muldoon levelled at Labour’s pension scheme in the old “Dancing Cossacks” election ad: if you were a non-working woman you would never ever get a cent of benefit from Labour’s scheme. Just not good enough, I’m afraid.

  9. Sable 9

    The future of work can be easily found at any international airport…..

  10. Nic the NZer 10

    On 2) why would you separate work from pay? This creates unnecessary implementation problems. On the other hand a Job Guarantee program allows the government to provide paid work as people need it, and could be biased towards increasing the socially important programs which are offered (jobs offered in the program are likely to come from the non-profit sector anyway).

    In addition I think that some of the issues around low pay, low engagement jobs are created by the high unemployment rate environment, this could be addressed by introducing a job guarantee so any body who wants a job can find one. Businesses don’t have as much of an incentive to care about engagement when they can always find replacements when some leave, its hardly a surprise that workers in these roles are treated as drones. On the other hand when you need to make a better offer to attract people (because they have alternatives on hand) then it needs to be a good offer, and you don’t want the staff leaving if you can avoid it.

    • weka 10.1

      A UBI allows vital work to be done that doesn’t need or want government approval or oversight.

      • Nic the NZer 10.1.1

        So does a benefit, but you don’t see a lot of beneficiaries working in the non-profit sector (some do).
        A well implemented Job Guarantee program would accept any reasonable proposals for work which were not ‘for profit’ so the need for government oversight should be a minimal issue here.

        • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1

          So does a benefit, but you don’t see a lot of beneficiaries working in the non-profit sector (some do).

          The Benefit is designed to keep people struggling in poverty; it makes it very difficult to gather enough energy and resources to have the surplus required to go out there and do more in the community.

          The contrast I would make is with retired people living on NZ Super who seem to have no issues in general being more involved in community activities. But someone on NZ super gets a pretty decent figure comparatively and it is an unconditional benefit – they aren’t facing constant stressors from WINZ etc.

          I am a big fan of a Jobs Guarantee in the vein that you mentioned.

        • weka 10.1.1.2

          Actually the amount of voluntary work being done decreases significiantly when unemployment rates go down. And many non-profit sectors are supported by people on benefits.

          Technically you are not allowed to take on permanent voluntary work while on the job seeker benefit because it makes you unavailable for paid work that would get you off a benefit. So what you are suggesting is non-permanent, filler type voluntary work, which creates non-resiliency in organisations and communities. What we really need is people engaged in medium and long term sustainable ways without having artificial economic pressures forcing them to do useless work they don’t want to do instead of the useful work that CV is talking about that they do want to do. A UBI solves that problem in ways that the current welfare system can’t.

          The other block to people on benefits doing voluntary work is poverty. Most people I know on the dole also have cash jobs, and the amount of work needed to just run their lives is higher than normal, which leaves little time/energy for community work. In recent decades, bene bashing is also creating a class of people largely disenfranchised from society, that’s another barrier. Most of that disappears with a UBI.

        • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1.3

          So does a benefit, but you don’t see a lot of beneficiaries working in the non-profit sector (some do).

          Have you considered that that might be because the benefit is too low to allow the to? Hell, the unemployment benefit doesn’t actually provide enough money for people to look for work.

  11. Skinny 11

    Nice work and well thought through CV. Keep it coming cobbah!

    A quick thought or 2. Labour need to expand out a bit and allow some focus on a universal wage/income as technology renders more and more people unemployed. Add a rapidly growing elderly population and a fast moving society leaving them often isolated to fend for themselves, we need to look at job banking to support them as they struggle with day to day life as age catching up on them. We have become far too uncaring of our old.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Chur 😉

      By looking at ways to increase universality of benefits and collectivity in communities, Labour will actually boost the kind of thinking and ethos which will benefit their long term electoral potential 🙂

      We have become far too uncaring of our old.

      And too willing to look at our youth as a financial burden.

    • CR 11.2

      I am currently on a benefit, after being bullied out of my (managerial) job in the not for profit sector, with an organisation that provides home based care for the elderly and disabled. I could write an epistle, believe me. A few points: not-for-profits such as my ex employers are government funded via contracts and sub contracts with the Ministry of Health, DHBs and ACC; government funding also goes to ‘corporate’ (i.e. ‘For profit’) care providing businesses; volunteering is often fraught, with vulnerable populations and it’s not ‘funded’ so often services that could be provided by volunteers are deemed ‘out of scope’ for the service; there is also the issue of risk as volunteers are not employees therefore have an ‘independence’ and freedom to advocate which can be challenging for the organisation; the organisation I worked for was the most spectacularly mismanaged I have ever seen. They wanted to outsource the most basic staff management tasks (e.g. Annual leave coverage at Christmas/school holidays, sick leave, on-call duties and basic staff training.) None of the executive or middle management wanted to do any work, the attitude to staff training was that they couldn’t see a ‘return on investment’ (hmmm I disagee and came across many worrying examples e.g. person hired off the street sent to provide care to a person on oxygen in the home…no supervision, no training…these are complex cares in high risk isolated work environment). The home based care sector is a pretty invisible part of our healthcare system and set to grow as the population ages and we de-institutionalise the disability sector. Loneliness and isolation are big problems for the people who need this sort of support at home. Also, there was a discrimination against beneficiaries (‘dregs of society’) and against mothers with young children (‘unreliable and only want to work between 9 &2’) when it came to hiring decisions for support workers, and the support staff were paid poorly with no guarantee of hours from week to week. If the client went to hospital for example the company didn’t get paid to provide the care and so the staff assigned to that person didn’t work and didn’t get paid. It’s a shit system, one that doesn’t get enough public attention. There has hardly been any mention of care workers with regards to zero hour contracts but abuse of this mechanism is rife in that sector. I could go on, but one last point…there are technologies being developed and marketed to remove human workers from elderly and home based care…we will be a sad, cold-hearted miserable society of people when that day comes.

  12. half crown 12

    Very good there Colonial, and also the comments by all of you. I remember a documentary I saw way back in 79 called Now The Chips Are Down, I feel this is relevant to this discussion. Also, it is interesting to hear again the thinking and idea’s of the time.

    One thing for sure it is a good documentary made in the days when the BBC was the BBC and not the shite it is today.

  13. Draco T Bastard 13

    Two decades on, that’s generally been proven to be exactly as farcical as it seemed to those involved at the time. It was like the promise of the “paperless office” v2.0

    ZOMG, it didn’t happen then so it’s never going to happen.

    /sarc

    Yeah, that’s a serious logic fail.

    Seriously, high tech really is the way to go but focussing on just little bits of that high tech, as you’re doing, brings about a false picture. There’s the bio engineering, materials development, electricity generation and distribution and many more sciences that come under high tech that many people miss and that are necessary for our future.

    Further, Labour’s apparent position that “technology” is what is going to put Kiwi jobs at risk neatly sidesteps addressing the system truth: the insatiable drive for financial extraction behind it all and a multi-decades lack of strong strategic leadership from the NZ elite.

    Although I’m sure that capitalists will try to exploit it as much as possible to benefit themselves there’s still the fact that technology will get rid of jobs starting with the jobs that no one wants to do. This does have to be addressed both economically and socially.

    The focus must go back on human centred work that prioritises caring, compassion, inter-personal communication, creativity and collectivity.

    Wouldn’t it be better just to make society more social rather than trying to hold on to jobs that no one wants to do?

    To my mind, a Future of Work Commission which is real and relevant needs to make big calls about what the future is going to look like and about some new political economic values for New Zealand. Labour has not yet hit the mark.

    Now that I’ll agree with.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      ZOMG, it didn’t happen then so it’s never going to happen.

      /sarc

      Yeah, that’s a serious logic fail.

      Draco, I was talking from the perspective of a 40-something or 50-something year old process worker who was made redundant in the 90’s. Many never found as high paying employment again, and certainly not as a website designer or PC technician.

      Then they hit 65 and gave up.

      That’s an entire generation’s working lives gone waiting for your tech miracle to maybe happen. Which it didn’t. And shows no signs of doing so.

      there’s still the fact that technology will get rid of jobs starting with the jobs that no one wants to do.

      Bullshit Draco. In the history of automation and mechanization, the jobs which were got rid of by technology were usually the ones that workers desperately still wanted and needed.

      • Draco T Bastard 13.1.1

        Draco, I was talking from the perspective of a 40-something or 50-something year old process worker who was made redundant in the 90’s. Many never found as high paying employment again, and certainly not as a website designer or PC technician.

        Yes but that happened because of the ideology of the 4th Labour and National governments. Instead of taking the lead and pushing the tech development they left it to the ‘free-market’, the private sector and student loans which did the exact opposite of what needed to be done. Basically, both the private sector and the government cut back on investment in the the training and development of the tech sectors resulting in the rise of low paid service sector jobs.

        In the history of automation and mechanization, the jobs which were got rid of by technology were usually the ones that workers desperately still wanted and needed.

        Was it because they wanted those jobs or because they needed them? There’s a big difference.

        We have a system where people need to have a job but

        1. Doesn’t create enough jobs
        2. Doesn’t train people for the jobs available
        3. Doesn’t support people to be innovative so that they can create their own jobs

        Instead it waits round for the rich to create jobs which they fail to do unless the government pays them.

        We need to change the system so that people are encouraged to be entrepreneurial rather than being oppressed all the time by both the government and business sectors.

        • Stuart Munro 13.1.1.1

          +100
          Right on the button mate. They’ve been throwing the babies out with the bath water.

          I’m not sure about the UBI, though I think something related might work well enough. I see a lot of work that needs doing in NZ, that isn’t being done. I don’t want a work for dole with military style standover – but I think communities should be getting some of that work done.

          I think there should be a benefit + option, whereby people list their skills & CV for a permanent job. While waiting they can do some hours a week on a locally approved activity paid at the living wage or more. This to bring the benefit above the miserable ‘can’t pay power bills or food’ level. And get stuff done.

          Participants in National’s dole-kicking fraud should be warned at counter level, and dismissed if higher up. Case managers whose clients suicide should face the equivalent of a police complaints authority. With our suicide at double the road toll the ATOS cloned fraud must be wound up and its perpetrators jailed.

  14. b waghorn 14

    A thought I’ve had that could double the amount of jobs in the system is to move away from the concept of the weekend and go to something like a 4 on 4 off system it would take a huge change in the mindset of most and there would be many fish hooks to remove but it could revolutionize the way we live.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Yep this is the kind of thinking we need, if we are to understand a desirable ‘future of work’.

  15. Karen 15

    This is an excellent post, both well-considered and insightful.

    I agree with all 5 points you have made but am particularly interested in #1 and #2. There needs to be an acknowledgement that there will not be enough paid work for everybody, but everybody still needs a reasonable income so that they have the energy to participate society in what ever way they can. At the moment benefits are set so low, and the requirements to seek work are so stringent, doing voluntary work is just not possible.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      There needs to be an acknowledgement that there will not be enough paid work for everybody, but everybody still needs a reasonable income so that they have the energy to participate society

      Yep. And let’s acknowledge that a lot of people hate their paid jobs. Most people dream of being able to put enough away to fully or partly retire from paid work a few years early, in order to do? – lots of other stuff that they want to do.

  16. This is cart before the horse stuff.
    Separating work from wages is not possible under capitalism.
    Any UBI will be drowned in a bureaucracy like WINZ.
    The UBI will be defined as the underclass breadline income.
    The distribution of income is determined by those who own the means of production. No prizes for Piketty.
    We have to start from first principles.
    Labour plus nature is the source of value.
    Labour contributes more than its own value as surplus value expropriated by the capitalist owners of the means of production.
    Rising productivity of labor that simultaneously renders labour redundant is appropriated by capitalists. This is the underlying cause of capitalist income inequality and unemployment.
    The ownership of said means must be collectivised and then democratically employed in production to meet needs not profits.
    This will allow a rational allocation of necessary work of a few hours a week, the sustainability of what is left of nature, and one hell of a lot of time for poetry and music.
    Such an allocation of labour time and reward will follow as the cart follows the horse.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      You give us the classical case for taking back the ‘means of production’, DB, but in large part those means of production are no longer in NZ. In fact, the world is currently awash in surplus productive capacity which is being under-utilised due to global economic conditions.

      What do you want to take ownership of that for?

      And in NZ the highest incomes are often made not by those who own ‘the means of production’ but by ticket clipping rentier capitalists.

      As I implied, we have to come to a new understanding of what producing “value” to society actually means. It does not always have to be related to capital assets as embodied within ‘the means of production.’

      Having said that I am a supporter of a much more democratic, much more broadly and community owned economy which lets us transition to ‘post-capitalism.’

      • dave brown 16.1.1

        NZ has means of production in proportion to its size.
        The ownership of the MP however is the question.
        I am not suggesting that the solution is possible at a national level.
        Greece for one, shows that. All nations are now integrated into a world capitalist economy.
        Under capitalist ownership value is expropriated from labor denying labor the capacity to act on its wider values such as peace, security, leisure etc.
        There is a hierarchy of values but none are possible without the expenditure of necessary labor time to meet our basic needs.
        We need common ownership – the commune – to overcome the limits of capitalist ownership, i.e. destruction of the commons, nature and civilisation, so as to make the full hierarchy of values possible.

      • Draco T Bastard 16.1.2

        The means of production do need to be owned by the state so as to encourage entrepreneurialism by the majority of people. In other words, people would be able to have their ideas turned into reality for free to see if they work and then investigate whether they can be marketed. It’s the removal of capitalist control that encourages innovation.

        Of course, this does require that the manufacturing be based around 3D printing so that a single factory can produce almost anything.

    • “Any UBI will be drowned in a bureaucracy like WINZ.”

      I’m interested in your perspective on that as to me the entire point of a UBI is that it doesn’t require nearly the amount of bureaucracy and oversight as the deliberately-complicated processes we have in place now to ensure beneficiaries get as little support as possible.

      • dave brown 16.2.1

        Just expunge that sentence as it suggests that there can be a UBI under capitalism if it were not for a bureaucracy.
        Under capitalism the UBI is a contradiction.
        If it were universal will not be survivable.

      • weka 16.2.2

        I’d see two problems Stephanie. One is how the state would manage topups (for those that are not young, able bodied, no dependents etc). Pretty much the only suggestions I’ve seen here on ts are that people currently getting benefits for health and disability reasons should be managed via Health, but the health system has its very own special kinds of bureaucracy and oppression. For someone like me who is dependent on both, I wouldn’t see Health over WINZ as that great an improvement, rather just a different set of hoops and mindsets to deal with.

        The other issue is how to tory-proof a UBI so that it can’t be fucked with in the future. Not so much repealed as diluted and screwed around with so it becomes dysfunctional (WINZ didn’t have to become a punitive clusterfuck, it took intention and effort to make it that way). I’ve not seen discussion on that.

        • Draco T Bastard 16.2.2.1

          The other issue is how to tory-proof a UBI so that it can’t be fucked with in the future.

          Set by referendum and requiring a referendum to change it. IMO, very few of Nationals policies would get through if they were set by referendum.

          • weka 16.2.2.1.1

            That doesn’t address policy change. Some of the problems with WINZ are legislative, but many are at the policy level. I’m not sure you could use referenda to manage that.

            • Draco T Bastard 16.2.2.1.1.1

              The big way that National could really fuck up a UBI would be to simply cancel and they would. So you set it so that they can do that only by requiring a referendum.

              The second way would be to reduce it to being less than that needed to live on. But if the original is set to a percentage of the median wage even that could be set so that it can only be changed by referendum.

              That leaves who can get it and universality means that they can’t fuck with that at all. Everybody gets it.

              • weka

                I agree that some of the issues can be resolved by legislation via referendum, but that still doesn’t address policy. Topups for instance wouldn’t be universal in the way you mean and would need policy to administer. It’s possible to do this in a low bureaucracy and fair way, but I wouldn’t trust National, or Labour in its current form, to get that right.

                We already see how budget caps and business models fuck the health system and how that impacts on individuals accessing what they need.

              • b waghorn

                As the market dictates the price of everything in our society all that would happen if a ubi was introduced is inflation would increase .

                • weka

                  how do you figure that?

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    The greedy schmucks will look at all the extra cash the poor have and put up prices to get it all. That’s pretty much how the market works and why we need to get rid of the rich and privatisation.

                  • b waghorn

                    If you give $5/7k to someone who doesn’t need it they’ll likely put it into housing . Give that same amount to low income earners and everyone from the supermarket to the landlords will be working on grabbing a slice of the action.
                    Its the same for an increase in minimum wage IMO I think the best way to lift the low earners outcomes is free health /dental for all, take gst off all food sold from any grocery type store/market.
                    Get solar on every state house for starters

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      If you give $5/7k to someone who doesn’t need it they’ll likely put it into housing .

                      Those people need to be taxed higher so that they don’t actually end up with more money.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Yes, providing more socialised services to the public is a good way of side stepping the market.

                • Colonial Viper

                  As the market dictates the price of everything in our society all that would happen if a ubi was introduced is inflation would increase .

                  Oh FFS

                  You make a point which needs to be discussed but to say it stops there is utterly wrong headed thinking

                  Prices are not going to go up if there is plenty of under-utilised capacity and fierce competition in the market place.

                  It is up to government to go into areas like power supply, banking and groceries, to ensure that those and other areas of ticket clipping, is fully opened up to efficient competition, and its market structure changed or eliminated to benefit ordinary people.

                  A UBI is a required and major structural change to the economy and it has to be brought in as part of a wider programme of action.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    It is up to government to go into areas like power supply, banking and groceries, to ensure that those and other areas of ticket clipping, is fully opened up to efficient competition, and its market structure changed or eliminated to benefit ordinary people.

                    True but the bludgers private sector don’t like that idea because they can’t actually compete with government efficiency.

                  • b waghorn

                    “”A UBI is a required and major structural change to the economy and it has to be brought in as part of a wider programme of action.””
                    Yes you’re right so unless a pro ubi government can get a very dominant grip on government for a period of at least 6 years I can’t see it being realistic, where as working to lower the cost of living for low income people is a far more realistic option to pursue in a multi party parliament.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I do see the sense of lowering the cost of living instead of granting everyone a UBI – but why not do both? After all, lowering the cost of living will mean direct government intervention in our market economy – and can you say that is really a much more “realistic” proposition?

                      To be honest, I don’t like the right wing economics thinking frameworks which seem embedded everywhere in society nowadays dictating to us what is “realistic” and what is not.

                      After all, if we really believed that giving poor people more money is counter productive, we would never raise the minimum wage again.

                      Also, IMO it is not the job of the Left to make life easier for self-described left wing politicians. It is up to them to listen to and respond to our demands for action. If compromise or adaptation or watering down is truly required, then they have to justify it, not us.

  17. thechangeling 17

    Nobody’s mentioned 3D Printing (unless i missed it) which surely will bring to an end import/export as every country will just ‘print out’ the goods they require. I know countries such as NZ have already had sesmic changes to the secondary part of the economy and countries much more reliant on it such as China are likely to suffer the most but NZ could be in serious danger when printing food products such as dairy comes into contention.
    Supposedly the new economic ‘war’ will then become ideas based, that is, who can think up software that creates new products ready to be printed out for mass consumption.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      you can only print using the materials that you can access; also the economics of printing individual items will vary greatly – sometimes stamping a thousand metal brackets out of a piece of sheet brass is going to be far more economical than printing each bracket.

      As for printing food items – you still need to access the base ingredients.

      • Draco T Bastard 17.1.1

        sometimes stamping a thousand metal brackets out of a piece of sheet brass is going to be far more economical than printing each bracket.

        Nope. 3D printed brackets will use less resources and be stronger:

        According to the brand, 3D printing makes the frame for the MX-6 Evo bike lighter without forfeiting strength by using topological optimisation – the process where material is removed from areas of low stress until the design is optimised for load bearing. Using as little material as possible means the frame is at its lightest.

        What you’ve done there is confuse finances for economics as most people do.

        As for printing food items – you still need to access the base ingredients.

        They’re grown in vats.

        • weka 17.1.1.1

          “They’re grown in vats.”

          Can you give some examples?

            • weka 17.1.1.1.1.1

              Looks like there is a need for base resources for that.

              • Colonial Viper

                It still surprises me that modern people can be so disconnected that they think they can grow a cake from a vat but not need any cake ingredients to start with?

                It’s like they think we live in Star Trek, where you hook a replicator up to a fusion generator and it just creates whatever you order out of thin air.

                BTW what did they call 3D printing of homes in the old days?

                Bricklaying.

                Nope. 3D printed brackets will use less resources and be stronger:

                Its some weird discussions I have with you DTB. I’m a manufacturing specialist and as far as I can tell, you are not. But you’ll happily narrow the definition of “efficiency” right down to the narrowest aspect of materials usage, which is but one element in a long chain of elements to be considered.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  It still surprises me that modern people can be so disconnected that they think they can grow a cake from a vat but not need any cake ingredients to start with?

                  Your Star Trek analogy is a good one – the ingredients will be recycled.

                  But you’ll happily narrow the definition of “efficiency” right down to the narrowest aspect of materials usage,

                  Except that I don’t.

                  The method of stamping out brackets is simple but leads to centralisation which itself leads to over production, excessive need for transport and the possibility (probability) that some of those brackets will be thrown away.

                  3D printing of them is more conducive to small scale on demand production resulting in less waste. Transport would be limited to only the raw materials and local recycling plants could be used reduce that as well.

                  The only real problem is time as, at the moment, 3D printing takes more time than using the stamping option. I believe that this will be corrected over time. That said, distributed production lessons the importance of the time component as a production facility is no longer looking to produce for the entire world but just the local population.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Sure Draco, I’ll patiently wait for this world of distributed manufacturing you are talking about to eventuate, and for China to cease being the centralised production node of the world.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You’re still making the same mistake as I pointed out to you yesterday. You’re saying that it hasn’t happened and so therefore that it can’t happen. You remind me of this:

                      “You wish to sail a ship up stream by lighting a fire under its decks, I have no time for such nonsense.”

                      ― Napoléon Bonaparte

                      We shouldn’t be waiting for these things, we should be developing them and thus creating the future of work.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Once upon a time as a teenager I really believed that all the stuff shown on Beyond 2000 was going to come true.

                      15 years on from the year 2000, I realise that the vast majority of what was shown on that programme is never going to be happening outside of R&D labs or maybe Bill Gates own home.

                      I could wish or pray that it were otherwise, but that would merely be pursuing a cargo cult.

                      You’re saying that it hasn’t happened and so therefore that it can’t happen. You remind me of this:

                      Actually I didn’t say that it “CAN’T” happen.

                      I merely said that it won’t.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Actually I didn’t say that it “CAN’T” happen.

                      I merely said that it won’t.

                      Same diff.

                  • b waghorn

                    “” the ingredients will be recycled.”
                    Mmm can’t wait for a burger out of a 3D printer that’s hooked up to the toilet.

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