Following on from Grant Robertson’s speech to the Labour Party Conference yesterday the Future of Work’s Commission’s report has now been released.
The document is complex and at 68 pages will take some time to analyse. No doubt the Government will be screening the report page by page for any weaknesses or proposals that can be spun out of recognition, such is politics.
There is a handy table containing all of the 63 recommendations, which include proposals to provide universal high speed internet to the more specific such as changing Government procurement rules so that local intellectual property owners will be prioritised. There are some that will attract attention in due course such as the proposal to establish a Young Entrepreneurs Plan proving $20,000 towards starting a new business.
One of the more interesting passages in the report contains a tentative suggestion that the Government should work towards the implementation of a universal basic income.
From the report:
The increased insecurity in the workforce also prompts a discussion about the way the state provides access to the income required not just to survive, but to live. This could include investigating new approaches to ensure every citizen has a reliable income that provides a reasonable standard of living, no matter their circumstances, and is delivered equitably and efficiently.
An example frequently proposed to the Commission is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). This is a guaranteed basic payment made to all adult citizens, no matter their employment status. It would eliminate the need for many of the criteria-based bene ts currently available. The idea found strong public support and could result in significant administrative savings for the Government.
While largely untested, trials have been undertaken in the past in Canada and India, and are currently being developed in Finland and the Netherlands.
As Professor Robert Reich said to our Future of Work Conference, while the time for a UBI has not yet come, we are heading towards a point where technological disruption will mean we can no longer provide stable incomes from work. “Eventually we will talk about it because it is the only way of dealing with where technology is taking us.”
There is still significant work to do to assess how a UBI would actually work, how to pay for it, the interaction with the tax system, and how to ensure equity and fairness in such a system. These issues are all worthy of further investigation. For now, we are focused on improving income support for children and families, making changes to address stand-down periods, and reducing the administrative burden of going on and off benefits.”
The initial media response has been interesting. The proposal for a training levy for employers who use overseas trained labour and not locally trained labour has been highlighted. From the Herald:
Labour leader Andrew Little has proposed a tax on employers who rely on workers from overseas instead of training local workers saying it was a way to make sure businesses were “doing their bit”.
The ‘training levy’ would be imposed on businesses in areas of skills shortages, such as chefs, construction, IT and tour guides where migrant workers are used.
However, companies that could prove they were already actively training New Zealanders for such jobs would be exempt.
The proposal for a training levy is included in Labour’s ‘Future of Work’ Commission report which is being released at the party’s annual conference in Auckland today.
On The Nation, Little denied it was a measure aimed at deterring businesses from bringing in migrant labour, saying immigration would always be needed.
“It’s about creating opportunities here for people who are here working with business and industry to make sure they are doing their bit.”
He said in any industry some businesses were investing in training local workers and taking on apprentices.
“But they do it and others in the same industry don’t do it.
And there are some employers who are saying ‘listen, we are meeting all the cost, we are taking all the risk, we are providing that channel of future skills to the rest of the industry. How about as a matter of fairness, we share the cost, share the risk. And this skills levy proposal is a way to do that.”
The other suggestion that has also attracted some attention is the proposal to allow beneficiaries to perform community work and retain their benefit. From the report:
We propose that the Government acknowledge volunteer work alongside paid employment.
Beneficiaries would be able to fulfil their working obligations if they chose to do volunteer work. People currently expected to be searching for paid employment could instead do volunteer work for the same number of hours they are obligated to be in paid employment. This would require a letter of support, and six-monthly updates from the organisation to ensure they are making a positive contribution.”
No doubt the proposal will be attacked by some. But in a world where traditional work is disappearing the proposal will allow people to make meaningful contributions to their community. Now all we need to do is share the world’s wealth around so that people can afford to make a meaningful contribution to their community.