During this past week, New Zealand has been having a national conversation to plan for the future. The interactive, live TV series, What Next, has been polling New Zealander’s opinions about what they would like the country to look like in 2037.
Shall we farm and consume insects, or shall we continue farming and consuming sheep, cows and lambs?
Shall we make changes to reverse the effects of climate change or shall we continue on the path we are on?
Shall we leave our education system as it is or shall we try something new?
Shall we try a universal basic income, like those currently being trialled in other countries?
Do we want to live to be 130 years old and reinvent what it means to be ‘retired’?
One of the topics discussed was our future employment. In the future your job or aspects of your job may be automated, replacing humans with robots. This got me thinking…which jobs are we likely to see in 20 years’ time?
Tradespeople (Builders, Plumbers, Painters)
I think these roles will still exist. We will still need more housing with our increasing population. Maybe the pipes will be made of different materials to last longer, maybe robots will assemble sections of houses, but people will still be needed to assemble these on site.
Corporate Sphere (Lawyers, Accountants, Business Managers)
The menial paperwork and typing is likely to be completed by coded computer software. Decisions in court are based on facts as well as emotions and personal testimonies so I think lawyers, judges and juries will still be needed for this. Maybe this is an opportunity for our older citizens to be in paid role that is meaningful and contributes to society. What Next NZ believed that most of New Zealand’s accountants will be in different jobs by 2037. I know many business owners won’t stand for a computer or robot doing their taxes. Where is the conversation and explanation when the numbers are not what you are expecting? People are where it’s at, so I think more of you are safe than the series predicted.
You are going to be vital to our innovation and change. Robots may do some of the jobs and programming, but we are going to need your ideas and coding to drive change. You will be inventing, learning and helping develop New Zealand’s future. I think you are safe I.T. gurus.
As mentioned earlier, you may be required to farm insects instead of beef, or grow food products that can be used in the creation of lab food (Chicken-free chicken anyone?). You will still be required to work the land. It may just be different to the job you are doing now. Personally I can’t get my head around the idea of eating crunchy insects, so I’ll still be buying my chicken and beef from you, or I’ll be stick thin and hungry….I guess that’s a choice too…
Relationship-based Professionals (Retail, Customer Service Representatives, Teachers, Nurses, Elderly Care)
Robots cannot create relationships. They can’t truly answer the question ‘does my bum look big in this?’ either. They may be filling the shelves at the supermarket and replacing people on the checkouts, but humans will still be needed to ensure that shoplifters cannot get away with all the goods. Our elderly will still need people to talk to and to provide their care. I predict that we will all still want nurses to comfort us when we are sick and recuperating in hospital. Research around quality care and education for children tells us that childhood relationships and attachments are very important to a persons wellbeing in their later life. Everyone who has a relationship-based job may have aspects of their job automated, but only people can create these meaningful relationships.
Domestic Sphere (Parenting, Caregiving, Cleaning)
As with the relationship-based professionals, you have important work contributing to your family every day. Whether you are caring for your own children, your grandchildren, or your neighbour’s children, you are heroes and the important job of being a parent will remain. You may have more time to spend together as technology advances and you are spending less time washing and folding the clothes, unpacking the dishwasher, vacuuming, and completing other household chores. Caregivers will still have an important role to play within society, but I hope that the technological advances will help relieve some of the pressure and support you too.
As you can see, I am of the belief that the majority of our current jobs will still exist. They may look a little different than they do now, but I think the sections of work that really matter, will still be completed by humans. The biggest outcome of this series was that we need to work on removing poverty in New Zealand as the first step to creating a brighter future for us all. Many have said this in the past, but I feel this was the first time I’ve seen New Zealanders contributing and recognising this idea in such a large way. It saddens me that poverty is still felt here, children without food and adequate clothing, homelessness, working poor. Financial education and supporting those in our own communities will make this a brighter world for everyone.
I’d love to read your contribution to this discussion.
Will your job exist in the year 2037?