Category Archives: The Future of Work

Labour Memorial Day. – Bryan Bruce. 

It’s  Labour Day again – the Public Holiday set aside to celebrate the rights of workers and in particular the right to an 8 hour working day.The great irony is that like many New Zealanders I am working today because I’m a contractor and not an employee with rights to holiday pay .

There was a time when all the shops and businesses were closed on Labour Day and parades were held to celebrate the dignity of working people and their battle against exploitation – a day when we trumpeted the equality of opportunity and family values that once made us proud to be Kiwis.

So what went wrong? What happened to that New Zealand I grew up in where the weekend really did mark the end of the working week?

Answer – selfishness. In 1984 – the Labour Party introduced the economic theory of Neo- liberalism we’ve been living under ever since. A theory that says the state shouldn’t interfere with the financial marketplace , that workers are a “resource” not our friends and neighbours , and the public utilities we all paid for with our taxes could be re-labled as “assets” and sold off to the highest bidder.

Then in 1991 National introduced the Employment Contracts Act that made Union membership voluntary . It  immediately undermined the power of collective bargaining and as a result we have  become a low wage economy

And why did we buy into all that? Well I am ashamed to say that it is largely down to the self centeredness of my generation – the baby boomers- whose parents and grandparents worked so hard to give us the opportunities in life they never had. And when we were given those privileges on a plate – affordable housing, free education, free health care, we spoilt post -war brats allowed ourselves to be wooed by Margaret Thatcher , Ronald Reagan and Roger Douglas and the politics of selfishness, into believing that the rights of the individual were far more important than the rights of the many. That a ME society would be a far better place than a WE society.

So we pulled up the economic ladder, and denied our children those state provided privileges we ourselves had enjoyed , with the result that , for the first time in nearly a hundred years, today’s generation of young people will be generally worse off than their parents.

Labour says it has seen the error of its ways. Well, we shall see.

Certainly by voting in some co-alition of the left next year is the only way can restore some semblance of fairness back into our society. Until then – please think of the person you meet over the counter today at any of the retail outlets and  working on this ” Public Holiday”-  who is very probably earning the minimum wage and  unable to make ends meet.

And let’s relabel today as Labour Memorial Day for there is more to mourn than celebrate.

Society could let everybody follow their talents. Imagine! 

​In a world in which I don’t have to work, I might feel rather different, perhaps different enough to throw myself into a hobby or a passion project with the intensity usually reserved for professional matters

We have forgotten how to play. We teach children a distinction between play and work. Work is something that you don’t want to do but you have to do. This training, which starts in school, eventually “drills the play” out of many children, who grow up to be adults who are aimless when presented with free time.
They’ve lost the ability to create their own activities. It’s a problem that never seems to plague young children. There are no three year olds that are going to be lazy and depressed because they don’t have a structured activity.” The Atlantic

Would a Work-Free World Be So Bad?

Fears of civilization-wide idleness are based too much on the downsides of being unemployed in a society premised on the concept of employment.
People have speculated for centuries about a future without work, and today is no different, with academics, writers, and activists once again warning that technology is replacing human workers. Some imagine that the coming work-free world will be defined by inequality: A few wealthy people will own all the capital, and the masses will struggle in an impoverished wasteland.

A different, less paranoid, and not mutually exclusive prediction holds that the future will be a wasteland of a different sort, one characterized by purposelessness: Without jobs to give their lives meaning, people will simply become lazy and depressed. Indeed, today’s unemployed don’t seem to be having a great time. The Atlantic