Telework part of picture in labour force change

Technology change is opening more doors for teleworking

New Zealand needs to become smarter about how people will work in the coming years, and more teleworking will probably form part of this picture, says the Department of Labour’s acting group manager of labour market dynamics, Dafydd Davies.

The department conducted a survey of the New Zealand labour market and released its findings in a report, “Forces for Change in the Future Labour Market of New Zealand”, earlier this month.

The report found that IT was a key factor in tackling New Zealand’s problem of lagging productivity and in facilitating changes in the nature of work. However, how technology interacts with other factors to bring about these changes is complex, it says.

Although the report referred to the emergence of new working patterns emerging, there was no explicit mention of teleworking.

Inadequate broadband is an obstacle to the rise of telework, says Davies.

“Also some jobs lend themselves more to teleworking than others,” he says, with a large number of New Zealand jobs still requiring a physical presence at the place of work.

“New Zealand’s industrial production remains concentrated in what the OECD classifies as low-technology sectors, for example, primary industry,” he says, “Although New Zealand’s technology intensity in these sectors is higher than in other countries.”

Video: Computerworld interviews Bevis England, of Telework NZ, at TUANZ's Teleworking 2008 conference

It is highly likely that technologies to support teleworking will become cheaper in the future, Davies says.

“As a result they will become more common. Video conferences and video-calling are already making it possible to retain the benefits of face-to-face contact without having to be in close proximity.”

Reducing commuting and work related travel have social and environmental benefits and (depending on the individual) may mean that a higher proportion of a person’s time is productive time, Davies says.

“While there have been significant advances, some industries, such as transportation, communications and the financial services sectors, have been faster to take up and invest in new computer technologies than others,” the department’s report says.

“There remain significant opportunities for other sectors such as farming, forestry and fisheries to make greater use of information technology to improve the quality of their products and the profitability of their ventures.”

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