I’ve been thinking about New Zealand’s productivity. And I’m worried.
We have a productivity taskforce set up by the National Government and led by the ignominious Don Brash. It’s likely to come up with an argument for economic growth which is about selling our state assets and keeping wages down, or cutting jobs to create more profits. Because that’s what the conservative side of politics believes productivity to be. Gordon Campbell’s piece on this a couple of months ago is worth reading.
Labour, on the other hand, is an enabler. We want economic growth. We don’t want it at the cost of creating greater gaps in our society between those on no income and those who do have one.
Neither do we want to create greater gaps between those on low and higher incomes, and those who own businesses and those who don’t. We also truly want to take account of the impact of our growth policies on the well-being of our environment.
We know that real wages need to rise in order for people to be able to make ends meet, feel as if they’re keeping their heads above water and get a bit ahead. And we believe that most people already work pretty hard, and making them feel they should work longer, harder and possibly for less pay is not a solution.
And while we want economic growth, we want it to benefit all of New Zealand, not just a few. Prosperity and public good.
So here’s three ideas to put into the mix which are about thinking creatively and saving money and time without promoting lower labour costs in a way that will adversely affect those who earn wages. Not only good for business and innovation, but good for building stronger communities, our skill levels and caring a bit more for our environment.
They’re all in the realm of e-solutions, which is not only my portfolio area, it’s where we, as a nation, have the ability to be really creative about our future. If we’re prepared to think outside the square.
I’ll list them, then I’ll expand on each one in a later post. Maybe Don’s productivity taskforce might take note.
1. Open government. In particular open software.
The NZ Government currently spends around $2 billion a year on IT, in software, hardware and all the services that go with it. We have lots of government websites, but we don’t have an open source policy and we don’t practice open government. We have attempted to harmonise govt IT and networking through the previous Labour Govt’s digital strategy. Much of that appears to have been ditched. There’s an awful lot more work to do in this area.
The US government, under Obama, has made a commitment to cut its total IT spend of $76 billion by between 50% and 80% by driving its systems into open source and cloud computing.
Could we save $1 billion?
2. Working from home. Telework
Ten year’s ago, a study funded by the Auckland Regional Council found that spending $3 million on an awareness raising programme about the benefits of telework targeting employers, could take 10% of Auckland’s traffic off the roads. There’s research overseas demonstrating that you can save up to 15% in workplace productivity and lower overheads through flexible arrangements with your employees working from home. And then there’s the greenhouse gas savings, and the boost to local communities. Let alone the social capital through having more parents at home, more often.
We’re not even collecting data in NZ for the number of people already working from home! Let alone those who’d like to. Are enough employers even thinking about it as an option?
3. Saving time. Improving our basic computer skills
Consider this. The UK National Health Service employs 1.2 million people. I’m told they recently put 100,000 staff through a programme to upgrade their basic computer skills, called the International Computer Driver’s Licence (ICDL). This is a reputable programme, developed through the European Union.
An analysis of its effectiveness showed they’d saved 38 mins/day for each employee. Or four weeks per person per year. Crikey! And that was because each staff member knew how to work better with the software they used every day at work and how to solve their own problems.
Not rocket science. How many of you readers are self taught on your computers? How often do you run into issues that frustrate you and waste time? Lianne Dalziel’s going to post more about this soon.
This course and other good ideas are available in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to utilise it broadly and for government to back it?
Oh, and just so you’re clear. There’s many other ways to increase productivity in a constructive way without disadvantaging large tracts of our society and selling off our silver to overseas interests.
Many of my colleagues have more knowledge on this than me. Monetary policy, boosting our savings, raising real wages. Boosting our productive economy… so much more to say…
Isn’t it time to take charge of our own productivity?