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NZ among countries most prepared for coming waves of automation - PwC

09 Feb 2018

PwC’s latest global research has found New Zealand is well positioned to manage the three coming waves of automation between now and the mid-2030s, in its report, “Will robots really steal our jobs?”

The report found New Zealand has just the sixth-lowest share of jobs that are at high risk of automation.

On average across the 29 countries covered, the share of jobs at potential high risk of automation is around 3% by the early 2020s, but this rises to almost 20% by the late 2020s, and 30% by the mid-2030s.

While this is global research, it’s good to see New Zealand will fare better, thanks to the country’s higher concentration of jobs in industries with relatively low potential automation rates, rising to only 24% by the mid-2030s.

PwC New Zealand innovation partner Andy Symons says, “The data suggests New Zealand has the opportunity to continue creating jobs for people as the world navigates through the coming waves of automation. We have a workforce that’s built on roles that are less automatable on average than many countries around the world.

“That doesn’t mean we can be complacent though. Both businesses and government should be developing strategies around retraining options for workers and building an education system that allows us to replace jobs that are lost through automation.”

Between now and the mid-2030s, PwC expects three waves of automation to reshape the global economy.

The algorithm wave, which is already underway and involves automating structured data analysis and tasks, such as credit scoring. This wave will come to maturity by the early 2020s. The augmentation wave is also underway and will mature later in the 2020s. The augmentation wave is focused on automating repeatable tasks, as well as the use of aerial drones, robots in warehouses and semi-autonomous vehicles. In the third autonomy wave, which could come to maturity by the mid-2030s, AI will be able to analyse data, make decisions and take action with little or no human input. Fully autonomous driverless vehicles could roll out at scale in this phase, for example.

Potential impact around the world

New Zealand is part of a small group of countries, along with the Nordic countries and Greece, where the workforce is concentrated in industries with relatively lower potential automation rates, and the roles workers hold are also on average less automatable.

“The report suggests we may experience a reduced impact (relative to other countries,” says Andy. “We’re in good shape because of our economy’s focus on services, especially areas like tourism, which can’t be easily automated.”

“We still have to be looking at how we train our young people and reskill workers so they are ready to move into new roles that technology like AI will create.”

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