Government creates Future of Work Forum and addresses low business confidence

Addressing the elephant in the room, Jacinda Ardern speaks at a Business New Zealand lunch in Wellington. Photo: Thomas Coughlan

The Government will create a Future of Work Forum to help develop policy on the changing nature of the workplace. The creation of the forum was announced by the Prime Minister at a pre-Budget Business New Zealand lunch in Wellington on Thursday.

The Government will be represented on the forum by Finance Minister Grant Robertson, business by Business New Zealand CEO Kirk Hope and Trade Unions by CTU president Richard Wagstaff.

Jacinda Ardern said it would build on work the Government did in opposition on the future of work in an age of digitisation and automation.

She also used the speech to hint at what businesses could expect from her Government’s first Budget, which Robertson will deliver on May 17, but stayed away from specifics.

The speech talked up investment in transport, health, housing, and education and reinvesting in public infrastructure. Ardern singled out previously announced investment in Auckland transport, including the $8.4 billion rapid transit network for Auckland.

She also singled-out housing, saying that Auckland investment would allow 124,000 additional homes to be built in Auckland, with another 30,000 built on greenfield sites. This was a direct hint to members of the construction industry in the audience that the Government wants private-sector buy-in to meet its infrastructure and housing goals.

“In order to finance and deliver these projects, we will need to work with infrastructure partners,” she said.

Ardern also addressed business confidence, which has remained low since the Government took office. On Monday, ANZ reported that business confidence fell during April. 23 percent of businesses were pessimistic about the economy, versus 20 percent in March.

Ardern called this the “elephant in the room,” but cast doubt the reality of business pessimism.

“Whether or not our perceptions are accurate is another question. Our perceptions are often influenced by our beliefs in general, or our assumptions,” she said.

She pointed to the IMF’s annual report on the state of New Zealand’s economy, which was positive both on the country’s economic outlook and the Government’s programme.