Dave Heatley

I am a principal advisor at the Productivity Commission, currently working on the Technological change and future of work inquiry. I joined the Commission at its inception in 2011 and have worked on five inquiries: international freight transport, trans-Tasman economic relations, services sector productivity, social services and tertiary education.

Pick a path - FutureworkNZ

Jun 13, 2019

Technology is an irresistible force, emerging from inventors and relentlessly changing the nature of work and society. Or at least that’s the way it is often portrayed. You can see this in the titles of books about technology, including Average is Over and Race Against the Machine. But do societies and governments have choices about the technologies they adopt and accept? New Zealander Kinley Salmon argues in his book Jobs, Robots & Us that there are different types of technology, with different impacts on work. He describes these types as: Efficiency innovations, which allow firms to make and sell existing products for lower prices. These tend to reduce the demand for labour. Sustaining innovations, which improve existing products. These don’t generate large numbers of new jobs. Market-creating innovations, which … Read More

Offshoring US manufacturing to China – it changed politics, but did it reduce jobs? - FutureworkNZ

May 15, 2019

The US–China trade war is in the news again. The “war” is motivated, at least at the US end, by the story that opening US borders to Chinese manufactured goods in the 90s and 2000s gutted US manufacturing firms, destroyed up to 1.5 million manufacturing jobs and led to widespread unemployment. Frustrated workers, particularly in the mid-West, changed their voting allegiances, supporting and electing an unconventional Presidential candidate in 2016 … Nicholas Bloom from Stanford University presented a keynote on May 3rd at the Society of Labour Economist’s annual conference that picks apart this story. I was fortunate enough to be there. First, Bloom looked at US manufacturing employment. This fell between 1992 and 2007 but has since stabilised. The sharp rise in Chinese imports was between 2001 and 2007. Manufacturing employment … Read More

Job loss predictions – easy to make, hard to trust - FutureworkNZ

May 13, 2019

This graphic caught my eye. It accompanies the article Robots and Us in today’s Otago Daily Times. Things look pretty dire for accountants and auditors – 94% of jobs automated within five years. Time to start night classes and retrain. Becoming a software developer looks a safe bet – only 4% of jobs will be automated. But hang on a minute, don’t they do the same job as computer programmers? And 48% of their jobs will be automated away. Is it 4% or 48%? Should you trust these numbers? In case this was a typo, I checked the source – willrobotstakemyjob.com. Here are the computer and software jobs it lists: I can think of no reason for the wide dispersion. These jobs share core skills, and indeed people often … Read More