The five big trends could increase inequality here
We’ve been hearing a lot about inequality lately, as the fuel behind the referendum outcome in Britain and the election results in America. So it’s alarming to realise that many of the trends outlined in the LGNZ paper 'The 2050 challenge: future proofing our communities' have significant potential to increase inequality in New Zealand.
The LGNZ paper identifies more urbanisation, changing demographics and employment, automation and climate change as the five big issues we are likely to be tackling over the next 30 years.
Trend 1 - urbanisation
Large cities will expand and populations in many regional centres and rural areas will contract.
Trend 2 - changing demographics
In just over 30 years, four out of every 10 people will be at least 65 years old - including almost everyone who is reading this article! If most of us stay in our existing homes there is likely to be even more pressure on housing.
As well as being older, there will also be a much higher proportion of Maori, Asian and Pasifika people in New Zealand.
Trend 3 - more flexible employment arrangements
Our communities are increasingly moving away from ‘9 to 5’ permanent employment. One third of New Zealand’s working population now work in jobs that are not salaried full time employment
For half of these people, this is a great outcome because it offers them freedom and flexibility. For the other half it’s just a big dose of uncertainty and financial stress.
Trend 4 – automation of existing jobs
Parents are even less likely to understand what their children do at work than is currently the case. Automation of up to 46 percent of existing jobs has been predicted by some, meaning people will need different skills in order to find work.
The impact of these changes is likely to be felt much more severely by people in lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs. It will also have an uneven impact across the country, depending on the industries which become the most automated.
Trend 5 - climate change
Individuals and communities will be differently affected by climate change, particularly sea-level rise, changes in rainfall, and the occurrence of natural disasters.
Council responses to these trends
What roles will local government have in addressing these uneven impacts, and helping people to adapt to the new reality?
Councils have a clear mandate to be involved in planning and infrastructure provision related to urbanisation, as well as adaption to climate change. They will need to decide whether communities as a whole contribute to managing these impacts or whether a direct user pays approach should apply.
It is less clear what role councils could have in helping people to adapt to more flexible working conditions and automation of existing jobs. It may be that the main role for councils will be as a strong voice to central government on the impacts of the changing work environment on their communities.
As demographics change, there’s even more risk that the interests of the 40% of people over 65 years’ old will carry more weight around council tables than the concerns of younger people. After all, older people have more time to make submissions, attend meetings, and will be a significant proportion of the home-owning ratepayers of an area.
The LGNZ paper notes that conventional consultation models are unlikely to capture representative input and new engagement strategies are needed.
I imagine social media will become increasingly important and provides an opportunity for councils to be more connected to people whose concerns would not otherwise be represented.
What do you think?