The evolution of jobs

With the creation of the internet in the late 20th century, development of all things has exponentially exploded in the 21st century. With everyone from around the world suddenly able to easily and (somewhat) freely share their thoughts and ideas, the whole world has been moulded. Jobs are no exception to this.

What were once safe industries like mining, petroleum and manufacturing are not so safe now. Goods and services which would once only be available to people in the surrounding areas can now sell anywhere. Websites like Aliexpress.com act as an online mall that anyone with an internet connection can visit and where anyone can sell. Once working from home was a dream but today this can easily be a reality. A lot of what is driving the change is automation, innovation and sustainability.

Automation

Automation is happening in almost every industry due to many different factors. There are different reasons for automation whether it be for costs and productivity or to improve human safety and reduce monotonous tasks. It’s estimated that by 2030 that 25% of today’s current jobs will be overtaken by automation. This in itself presents a problem; with a large New Zealand and global aging population some of these people are unlikely to be able to or want to train in a new job. Some of us, me included, can be very resistant to change. The younger population however, are more likely to adapt to the coming changes. Automation doesn’t just wipe out jobs though, people are able to move into different areas of the same role like quality assurance and customer based roles.

Innovation

New Zealand itself has always been an innovative culture and pushing boundaries. One good example of this is the America’s Cup yachts where we continually seem to be the furthest ahead in design, despite teams with far larger budgets like Oracle competing. Just having the race back in New Zealand for 2021 has opened up jobs like installing 5G across Auckland and soon, wider New Zealand.

Richard Pearse, a farmer in the South Island, flew nine months before the Wright brothers did, making a Kiwi the first person to fly a machine heavier than air, albeit he did end up crash landing in a hedge. Up until earlier this year, New Zealand had a company in the process of making a commercial jetpack. It almost comes down to the old adage ‘whatever you can do, I can do better.’ Nowadays you need that ‘edge’ to push you past the competition.

Weta Workshop are in a league of their own creating master pieces like ‘Lord of the Rings’. New Zealand is well known for its game and graphic designs through innovative places like ‘Jade’. We have always been the bunch to try something new and not necessarily do what was done before us.

Sustainability

While Donald Trump may not believe in global warming, even big industrialised nations (mainly China) have been changing the way they develop. China is known for smog that blankets entire cities. A change is in the air and not just figuratively but also materially. Common fuels which once provided the majority of our world’s electricity are being replaced for sustainable alternatives.

In 2014, 1.2 billion jobs or 40% of the world’s employment were in industries that depend heavily on natural processes. The Paris Agreement was signed by almost all nations in 2018 and accepts that pollution is too high on a global scale. This is pushing more and more jobs into sustainable energy. In 1997 only 28% of New Zealand’s energy demand was filled by renewable energy. In the last figures in 2017, that is now up to 40% and is on an upwards trend. This obviously moves jobs away from coal and petroleum but creates just as many in relation to solar and wind power and the production of biofuels.

The changing job landscape is not something that should be scary to us, especially millennials. Change is never a bad thing. Accounting is very much a part of this trend. In the (relatively) small time I’ve been an accountant I’ve seen the job evolve from records coming in via a shoebox which meant working with historical numbers to appease IRD requirements each year, to having a large majority of clients on cloud based systems that allows us to have up to date information. We now can prepare management reports and give them up to date information at the push of a button. With programs like Xero, being an accountant is less and less about preparing financials for a client, and more about adding value.

Jobs are going to continue to change year on year. The landscape of the industries we’ve grown up in are going to keep changing. We don’t really know what kind of jobs there will be in 30 years’ time and at the rate of change currently, it is almost impossible to predict. People will adapt; we have done for centuries gone by. It is both scary and exciting but ultimately it’s just life.

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