New Zealand Lags Behind in the Technology Workforce

New Zealand’s Digital Economy

Farmland, Mount Taranaki (Egmont), North Island, New Zealand - stock photo, canvas, fine art print

Over the past 10 years, the fastest growing sector is New Zealand has been in tech. This industry along supports tens of thousands of jobs and the exports that these produce has doubled in the last decade, now worth over $6 billion. Specifically, the digital economy that makes up the framework of this industry is worth $1.3 billion. Only behind dairy and tourism, this industry is growing at a rapid clip

In 2016, technology has redefined what productivity is. Engineers 100 years ago could not possibly imagine what we can accomplish in an hour on today’s scale, let alone in a year. While New Zealand has attempted to stay current, they are seriously under-invested and are at risk of falling behind the rest of the world. Only in the area of medical research do we stand a chance in leading on a global level.

When viewed as a whole, technology is not affecting different sizes of the sector evenly. Research shows that amongst small and medium sized businesses, the technology rush has yet to make any appreciable difference in productivity or profitability. Businesses simply are adapting their structure fast enough, and their competitors overseas are gaining ground faster than ever.

The problem comes down to this: As a whole, New Zealand doesn’t have vision. We have a hard time coming to terms with how tech can support a stronger and more efficient economy that benefits everyone. There is no unifying thought process about the changes that need to be made, the future landscape of work, or how society as a whole should adopt large technological advances. Additionally, there is no guidance from our leadership about policy choices that will help us realize our true potential. Up until this point, the discussion has been almost non-existent.

We have such potential as a small, but strong country. These are conversations we need to be having.

The Work and the Workers Who Perform It

When looking at wages and salaries in tech, the averages are double what New Zealander’s will typically take home. However, when it comes to people having the necessary skills, we again fall short. Training and education need to become a priority if we are to advance. There are about 10,000 jobs that need toco-working space be created in order to fulfill the needs that have been created.

Workers young and old all went the flexible hours and conditions that the industry provides. In fact, when surveyed, young workers stated that the flexible hours are more important than any other factor. Yet, the standards within companies lag behind other parts of the world that have already adopted a looser structure. Companies are more concerned about how this all affects the bottom line, instead of how it can create change and ultimately large growth.

There has been some growth in digital work hubs. These co-working spaces in NZ are in major parts of the city and focus on highly collaborative environments. We need these kinds of things in our provinces too to really drive progression.