A thoughtful speech by Grant Robertson to Labour’s Future of Work conference. A part that struck me was:
In November received a visit from the joint winners of a prize I give to a local secondary school. They had won the prize in 2013 and arrived at the end of 2014 to thank me and tell me how their year at university had gone.
It had gone well each in their respective disciplines of marketing and design. I asked them about their plans for the summer and holiday work. Thinking back to my glory days as an assistant in the fruit and veggie section of the local New World I expected to hear tales of bar work and retail. Instead I was presented with two business cards, and a link to their design business that they had established during the year. The summer was shaping up well with a client found through their on-line presence, and a sideline in stunning digital depictions of Wellington icons for sale at various market stalls.
These two very capable young women did not see any boundaries between their study, commencing work, pursuing their interests or passions. They had the attitude, the skills and the security to do just exactly what they found interesting. The future of work is bright, flexible, diverse and stimulating for them- and they will be a complete handful for anyone here trying to teach them.
I love this story. It is one of the things I love about the digital age, that so many young people are embracing the opportunities to do what they are passionate about, and are not dependent on an employer, or a degree. Such a story would have been near unthinkable 15 years ago.
The Commission’s mandate is to undertake a two year programme to develop a comprehensive understanding of the changing nature and experience of work and its impact on the economy, and to develop the policy responses required to meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities presented by these changes.
We believe that in order to be responsible leaders we must look to the future and prepare now. We owe to the next generation of New Zealanders that we are giving them the best possible chance to succeed. We owe to a current generation of workers who feel insecure about their future and income that they can make transitions to new and fulfilling types of work. We owe to businesses, small, medium and large that we have a plan for sustainable diversified, economic growth.
There is no room for complacency in such a period of rapid change, and by 2017 we must be in a position to tell New Zealanders what we are doing to face the future of work with confidence. The Commission will be open to new and different ideas, to challenge our assumptions and policies. We will be prepared to change. Our commitment is that with our core values firmly in mind, we are open to each and every idea that is put forward.
I will admit to a degree of scepticism that Labour will come up with anything more than their normal policies of payoffs for unions, extra costs on employers and less flexibility and choice in the workplace. But I hope to be wrong.
What Labour is doing with this two year programme of consultation and development on this issue is exactly what a good opposition should do. If they do it well, they’ll build credibility with stakeholders, show they understand the environment and issues, and come up with some genuinely new policies and solutions.