What shape will our workforce of the future take?
Opposition Labour Party finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, said in a recent press release that Kiwis are working harder than ever before and getting less and less for their hard work.
He’s right in that the New Zealand labour force is not the prettiest of pictures right now:
- The rate of unemployment increased to 5.7 percent from the previous quarter’s 5.4 percent
- The working-age population grew 0.5 percent to 3.76 million; The participation rate was an all-time high of 70.5 per cent
- Labour productivity fell 0.7 per cent in the year to March 2016 bolstered by the strong labour market as waves of migrants look for work; Productivity is key to New Zealand’s standard of living as growth in productivity results in more output from the same amount of input
- Annual net migration rose to a record 71,333 in the 12 months ended February 28, up from 67,391 in the same period a year earlier
- By 2031, New Zealand will be home to more than one million people aged 65+, or one in every five people (McPherson 2012; There will be an increasing need for welfare benefits, pensions and public healthcare for New Zealand’s older citizens
- Wage inflation remains subdued, up just 0.4 percent across all sectors for the last quarter or 1.6 percent from last year.
According to the most recent Labour Market Statistics from the March 2016 quarter, New Zealand’s labour force grew 1.5 percent, the largest quarterly growth since December 2004.
“The total labour force increased by 38,000 people in the March 2016 quarter,” labour market and households statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said. “This resulted in more New Zealanders in unemployment and employment than three months ago.”
Whether a business owner, employee or business person, the volatility of the workforce affects us all. So what does our future workforce look like and what is being done to specifically monitor and manage it?
The Future of Work Commission was announced by Labour leader Andrew Little in 2014. It aims to “develop the vision, direction, and policies for an economic and social programme that will enable New Zealanders to confidently face the changing nature of work and have sustainable, fulfilling and well-paid employment in the coming decades.”
It covers six work streams: Income and employment security, technology and its impact, education and training, economic development and sustainability, Maori, and finally, Pasifika.
Labour has already announced some policies based on the work of the Commission:
Working Futures Plan to provide three years of free post-secondary school training and education
Young Entrepreneurs Programme to give 100 young New Zealanders the support to take their business ideas forward with a grant equivalent to the three years free, and the support of business mentors
Professionalised careers advice integrated into learning: every school resourced to have highly trained careers-advice staff and every student will develop a personalised career plan.
The pros and cons of a volatile workforce:
Economic opportunity: a revival of entrepreneurs who, instead of trying to find an existing position, create one for themselves
A competitive work force drives betterment at an individual level and in turn employees are more productive and motivated, and better rewarded.
Unemployment creates a dissatisfied and non-contributing society
Low rates of unemployment over an increased period of time lead to economic instability and as a result poverty and poor health. This in turn is a strain on government resources, among other things.
Questions we need to ask ourselves:
Is the employment-to-population ratio balanced? How will this ratio affect the economy and how do we manage this?
How many people are leaving versus arriving in NZ for work? What is the predicted long-term equation?
Where are the opportunities for expansion, development, restraint, investment etc?
Do we need to better consider government policies that are accepting of valuable migrant skills in the workforce, yet prioritise employment for residents?
By Lydia Truesdale