STARTING WITH what’s not news – so-called disruptive technologies are putting people out of work. Robots replace factory workers, Uber threatens taxi drivers’ livelihoods (and selfdrive cars are yet to come) and, among accountants, cloud-based software like Xero and MYOB are forcing change. This is one reason career trajectories are much less rigid than they used to be. People don’t just job hop; they industry hop, and often a degree is just the entry point for someone’s first career. Instead of a job for life we are increasingly facing a life of jobs. But changing jobs isn’t easy, especially if the move is forced on you because a piece of software has stolen your pay check. And retraining or upskilling can be expensive – particularly when you now haven’t got a job. Who should pay? As part of our Business Insights research series, Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand has been looking at the impact of disruptive technologies.
We asked people who should bear the responsibility (and the cost) of retraining when technology puts jobs at risk. The results, as shown in the graph, found 44 percent of people thought it was an individual’s responsibility, 32 percent thought employers should pay and 24 percent considered it was the Government’s role. The problem is that a well-functioning system, where employees retrain themselves to match a changing workforce, relies on people recognising their own vulnerability, or at least the vulnerability of their chosen profession.
And here New Zealanders fall down. Our survey suggests that while intellectually we understand the impact of disruptive technologies generally, we are less likely to recognise that our own job is at risk. Most of our survey participants thought there was a low to moderate risk of their job being at risk from technological change over the next 10 years – even when they worked in occupations with quite a high risk of job obsolescence. That’s a worry because our research suggests almost half of the New Zealand workforce (46 percent) face a high risk of computerisation. (That figure is supported by the recent Oxford Martin Programme study in the US, which found around 47 percent of total US employment is at a high risk from automation over the next 20 years.)
We suggest businesses should:
- Develop a plan for your employees to prepare for the impact of technological change.
- Encourage on-the-job training and upskilling throughout your employees’ careers. There is also a role for Government as our education system has an important part to play. Policy makers need to make sure schools and tertiary institutions are equipping both children and adults with a life-long approach to learning needed to meet technological changes. They need to be wary of supporting occupational specific skills and instead instil in students the ability to quickly adapt and continuously up-skill right through their lives.
Find the Disruptive Technologies research on the CharteredAccountantsANZ website. www.charteredaccountantsanz.com
By Kristen Patterson, New Zealand Country Head, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand