​The Automation Game: New tech threatens 50% of Kiwi jobs

Half of all jobs in New Zealand are at risk of being automated over the next two decades.

Half of all jobs in New Zealand are at risk of being automated over the next two decades, with rural New Zealand being hit the hardest.

That’s one finding of a new research paper - Disruptive Technologies: Risks, opportunities - Can New Zealand make them most of them? - produced by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Lee White says the research has produced some “very interesting” findings and confirms that the country needs to embrace technological change or risk being left behind.

“It shows that 50 percent of all jobs in New Zealand could be at risk of computerisation and automation and that disruptive technologies will have the most negative impact on labouring jobs,” White says.

“We know now that around 75 percent of labouring jobs have a high-risk of automation but around 12 percent of professional positions will also be lost.

“So far automation has impacted most on blue-collared employment however, the coming wave of innovation threatens to upend white collar work as well.”

White says the research also suggests the preparedness of the New Zealand workforce to adjust to automation has a marked gender skew.

“The categories most at risk of automation include manufacturing, mining and trades which tend to be male-dominated,” he adds.

“New Zealand has traditionally had a male-dominated society however this could change as a result of disruptive technologies.”

The research also sheds light on New Zealanders’ attitude towards new technologies.

Findings show that only 45 percent of Kiwis would use driverless cars and 62 percent of New Zealanders say they’d undergo medical treatments to slow the ageing process compared to only 38 percent of Americans.

The paper also illustrates that regional New Zealand will be worst hit with Canterbury at the highest risk of job losses due to automation, followed by Waikato, Manawatu and Otago.

However, White says New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of emerging technologies.

“In order for New Zealand to reap the opportunities presented by emerging technologies, businesses will need to be innovative and collaborative,” he adds.

“There is growing impetus for New Zealand businesses to adapt to minimise the disruptive effects of technology because current business models won’t be sustainable.”

For White, New Zealand’s relatively healthy economy and flexible regulatory environment mean it is well-placed to evolve and prosper.

“Public debate on the appropriate role of technology in New Zealand’s economy and society is needed to ensure New Zealand addresses these issues as a nation,” White adds.

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