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The future of work in New Zealand: An empirical examination

Author: Meehan, L., Watson, N.

Organisation: New Zealand Work Research Institute

Published: January 2021

Country: New Zealand

Research type: Report

This report examines the adoption of future-of-work (FoW) practices, processes and technology in New Zealand workplaces. It uses the 2018 Business Operations Survey (BOS) linked to administrative data from Stats NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) and Longitudinal Business Database (LBD) to examine two main questions, each with a firm-level and an individual-level component. First, ‘What proportion of firms are using FoW practices and what share of workers are employed by these firms?’. In addition, ‘What firm characteristics are associated with being more likely to have FoW practices and what worker characteristics affect the odds of being employed by such firms?’. We investigate a variety of practices associated with the FoW, covering areas such as employee engagement and inclusion policies, flexible leave and work options, automation and digitalisation, and the use of collective agreements and non-standard work.

Across almost all the FoW practices investigated, we find that female workers are more likely to be employed by firms with these practices than male workers. It may be that firms with progressive practices, such as flexible work options, are more open to employing female workers or that female workers self-select into firms with these practices. Women are also more likely to work in firms which employ a greater share of workers on non-standard contracts, which is in line with previous work highlighting that women are more likely to experience insecure work. Māori, Pacific and Asian workers are also more likely to work in firms with FoW practices than European workers. The adoption of FoW practices varies considerably by industry, and these differences are largely in line with our expectations. Also, in line with our expectations, smaller firms are less likely to have FoW practices.

We speculate on potential drivers and implications of the observed relationships between FoW and firm and worker characteristics. We also discuss the possible role of Covid-19 and the associated policy responses on FoW practices, such as the adoption and normalisation of digitalisation and flexible work practices.