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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.1

    26 September, 1994

    Some obvious job creation opportunities go begging. Many councils around the country are delaying urgent work on their essential infrastructure such as sewerage , water systems and roading. Auditor-General Jeff Chapman warns of an imminent collapse in essential services. Chapman tells the Dominion : " I am aware of several major timebombs around NZ ... instances where councils will be up for many millions of dollars to prevent the collapse of their infrastructure. " At present no-one knows exactly how much deferred maintenance there is within the local government infrastructure, and this information is crucial to future planning.
    Source The Dominion 13 September 1994 "Infrastructure time bombs warning" by James Weir

    A $1.6 million scheme has started in South Auckland to employ 42 unemployed people - half of them state housing tenants - to refurbish and redecorate 3000 Housing New Zealand homes on Otara and Papatoetoe. The pilot scheme was set up by Hawkins Construction in partnership with Housing New Zealand and the Employment Service, and was specifically developed to employ locals. Trainees receive on-the-job training in wall-papering and painting and earn $7-9 an hour depending on skills and experience. Margo Staunton NZ Herald.
    Source The New Zealand Herald 22 September 1994 "Tenants painting their way into work" by Margo Staunton

    Labour is soon to release its new platform of economic policies. Michael Cullen says it will have four basic aims : full employment, higher real incomes, more equitable distribution of income and sustainable economic development. It plans to radically change its tax policies for high earners. Signal : The wealthy to pay more.

    Predictions on the detail of Labour's economic policies. Family Support : boost payments for the poor, Company tax : no change, Entertainment taxes : abolished, GST : No change, Training Levies on employers : to be introduced and made compulsory, Death duties : re-introducing an inheritance tax for those leaving assets above $500,000, Venture Capital : a fund of up to $300 million established.

    Source The Daily News 23 September 1994 "Wealthy must pay" by Helen Tunnah

    Foodbanks should close their voluntary services until government restores benefits to a level people could live on. This was the message from Sue Bradford and protesters outside an Auckland conference of foodbank co-ordinators. Bradford argues that foodbanks have become a new arm of social policy implementation which the government doesn't have to pay for. There are now 130 foodbanks in Auckland distributing $21 million in food this year. The foodbank co-ordinators told Peter Gresham that his department's offices are referring their "customers" to this relatively new source of relief for New Zealanders who have fallen through the cracks of the new economy.
    Source The New Zealand Herald 14 September 1994 "Action to close the foodbanks" by Rochelle Lockley

    The Employment Service is hoping that its new programme Job Action will help it focus on the needs of the long-term unemployed. The programme provides an interview followed up by a one-week workshop to help the person produce a job-hunting plan. It is being piloted in several centres at the moment, and will be available nationwide by the end of May next year.
    Source The Daily News 21 September 1994 "Job action starts"

    Government has provided the environment for businesses to achieve, and now business should respond by using the available government employment programmes and not shying away from hiring people who have a period of unemployment in their CV, said Peter Gresham at a breakfast launch of his new Social Welfare programme "From Welfare to Wellbeing". Gresham called on business leaders to contribute their entrepreneurial experience to help solve unemployment.

    From Welfare to Wellbeing appears to be an effort by government to change public perception about its social policy. According to the Sunday Star Times columnist Ian Templeton, people see government social policy as being driven by the government's intention to spend less money. From Welfare to Wellbeing is apparently an effort to put on a more human face. It also is signalling a change in attitude towards beneficiaries. Gresham : the Department is now focussed on working with beneficiaries to assist them to make a contribution ...

    Source The Daily News 16 September 1994 "Private sector asked to aid welfare plan" by NZPA

    The Ministry of Education is well down the track to making similar changes to the polytechnics system as it has already done to Health. The plan is to restructure polytechs as business units, and making them tender for course funding, the way private training providers do now. Currently, private trainers receive funding of between 20% - 40% of what the government pays to polytechs for similar courses. The Ministry's proposal, which will go to Cabinet next month, will allow contracts to be awarded to the lowest tender, and funds currently spent on polytech courses will be diverted to private trainers. Prediction by the Ministry : an overall reduction of polytech funding by about 3%.
    Source The New Zealand Herald 7 September 1994 "Private courses in line for equal funding" by Andrew laxon

    Weddel workers won't be able to use many NZ Employment Service schemes until they can demonstrate, by being unemployed for 26 weeks, they are disadvantaged in the labour market. While motivation to re-train is high when people first lose their jobs, the government's employment programmes focus on long term unemployed. Few services will be available to the flood of 2000 unemployed people, even if job prospects are non-existent, until everyone has put in their time on the dole. Question : What training opportunities will be in place when 26 weeks is up ?

    The Alliance has called on the Government to start an immediate programme of public works to soak up the unemployed. Priorities : Upgrading housing, hospital and school maintenance, weed control, planting native bush, and homecare for the elderly and sick. Cost : $1 billion.

    Source The Dominion 16 September 1994 "Jobless figures rise near Weddell plants" by Simon Kilroy

    Jim Anderton and Alliance Employment spokeswoman Leah McBey earlier this month presented their submission to the Employment Taskforce. Entitled "Participating and Belonging", it summarises Alliance policy measures for full employment. The Alliance is defining full employment as having no more than 30,000 people unemployed. They see this as the number of workers who at any one time may be between jobs and is based on 2-3% of the workforce. The Alliance predicts a realistic timetable of achieving full employment as 10-12 years.

    In their submission the Alliance reinforced their commitment to create a $250 million economic development fund. It will be the basis of locally driven strategies to provide jobs. Other policies : that further tariff reductions should lead to more employment; a gradual shortening of the standard working week, paid work should be expanded to include socially useful activities which at present were unpaid.

    Source `Participating and Belonging" from the Alliance ; The Dominion 8 September 1994 "Call for public works to occupy jobless"; The New Zealand Herald 8 September 1994 "Jobs for everyone in 12 years Alliance"

    Getting employers to train young people in new work skills is the aim of the $5 million Skill Start programme announced in the 93 Budget. It offers a $1000 subsidy to employers to take on trainees aged 16-21. A recent review of the scheme by AGB McNair found that as many as 90% of the employers indicated they would have taken the young people on without the Skill Start subsidy. This is not surprising, as three quarters of the employers said they had only heard of the scheme after they had decided to hire someone. NZH.

    New Zealand's greatest welfare fraudster offered to show the Department how to close benefit loopholes but he says that officials didn't want to know. Leslie Dalziel was reported in the Sunday Star-Times as owing Social Welfare $721,453.66 after obtaining unemployment benefits under 28 aliases over four years. In its editorial, the Sunday Star-Times compares the $730 million New Zealanders owe Social Welfare with the $200 million Australians owe their system. Closing the loopholes Dalziel used would seem a good start to reducing benefit fraud.
    Source Sunday Star-Times 18 September 1994 "Biggest bludger pays debt" by Lee Umbers

    The dole should be replaced by a Job Search allowance in the first six months after a person loses their job. This is one of the main recommendations in the Employers Federation submission to the Employment Taskforce. They envisage that the allowance should be paid at a higher rate than the unemployment benefit, to enable the person to pay for the costs of CV preparation, papers, transport and clothing. In this period the person would be responsible for undertaking their own job search without the help of the Employment Service.

    For people who did not find a job after six months, the Employers believe they should then go on the unemployment benefit under an individual case management, and be required to undertake training, work experience, or subsidised work as directed.

    Source The New Zealand Herald 20 September 1994 "Employers Federation calls for cuts to dole" by Anamike Vasil

    Employers are not undertaking employment equity programmes voluntarily, so Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Tennet, is introducing a private members bill which seeks to re-establish an equal employment opportunities office. Since the Employment Equity Act was repealed in 1990, no progress has been made on the proportion of women in management positions despite the increasing numbers of women in the paid workforce. The difference between the average wages of men and women has also not reduced. The Bill would require employers of 50 or more staff to develop equity programmes to improve the status of women, ethnic minorities and the disabled.

    Maori women make excellent business women, according to a Women's Affairs Ministry resource booklet, "Maori Women: Steps to Enterprise". A 1990 study had found that many enterprise assistance programmes didn't meet the needs of Maori women. The booklet gives sources of information and funding, how to develop a business plan and has a list of Maori business and professional women.
    Source The Dominion 19 September 1994 "Booklet encourages Maori businesswomen"

    Prospects look good for jobs in the housing sector. New housing permits from local authorities in August were up 25.5% on the same time last year. Trevor Allsebrook of the Master Builders Federation tells the Dominion that higher mortgage interest rates weren't dampening the enthusiasm to build new homes. Figures from the Housing Ministry show that NZ could be heading for its biggest population growth since World War II and a consequent housing boom. NZ has, at 74%, the fourth highest home ownership rate in the world behind Ireland, Spain and Luxembourg.
    Source The Dominion 22 September 1994 "New houses up 44pc" by Mike Booker

    The Anglican Church recommends that the Government should introduce a Social Responsibility Act similar to the Fiscal Responsibility Act. In a recommendation to the Employment Taskforce which echoes similar suggestions by economist Suzanne Snively, the Church recommends that employment should be treated with exactly the same degree of urgency as inflation. They say that an unemployment target of 0-2% should be adopted, and an Employment Commission established with research capacities and resources equal to those of the Reserve Bank and its governor. Also recommended : establishing a Peace Corps whereby young people could be engaged to help in New Zealand and around the Pacific.
    Source The New Zealand Herald 24 September 1994 "Anglicans want jobless target set"; The Dominion 24 September 1994 "Church stresses job importance"

    A paradox in these days of high unemployment : New Zealanders are working longer hours than before - a total average of 39.18 paid hours a week. This is the highest figure since surveys began. Statistics NZ.
    Source The New Zealand Herald 23 September 1994 "record numbers in work"
    Fulltime jobs in NZ in May are up 51,800 on the previous year to total 1,007,500. This is less than the number of fulltime jobs counted when the survey began in February 1987 at 1,014,000. Growing sectors : Retail and wholesale, restaurants and hotels, and manufacturing. Statistics NZ.

    The total number of filled jobs has been pushed to an all-time high however - by the growth in part time work. There are now a record 1,394,500 filled jobs in the NZ economy with 387,100 or 27% of them part-time. Statistics NZ.

    Source The New Zealand Herald 23 September 1994 "record numbers in work"; The Dominion 23 September 1994 "part-time work boosts job figures"

    New proposal from Income Support announced to stagger benefit paydays throughout the week. This would have the effect of eliminating "benefit days" from the retailing week.
    Source The New Zealand Herald 1 September 1994 "Plan to stagger benefit payday"

    Women in Europe and North America are emerging as a "special underclass" in poorly paid part-time and temporary positions with little security or job protection. A United Nations report for the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) says that women's renumeration has dropped since the 1980's, as has the general quality and choice of employment available to them.

    Says the report : " Women continue to be segregated into traditionally female occupations, particularly in the service sector. While women's participation in the labour force has increased substantially over the past 20 years, the trend has not produced a significantly higher proportion of women in managerial or decision-making posts."

    Source The New Zealand Herald 21 September 1994 "job outlook bleak for women"

    " Without employment, life withers. Employment is the single most critical socio-economic factor that any country could aim for, providing not only income but satisfaction in life. "
    -- the Rev Richard Randerson, Anglican social responsibility Commissioner

    " No matter how hard you try, some of the people who are suffering will slip through the cracks. We will have some suicides. There will be marriage break-ups, we will have the domestics. We will have the children who slip behind, and are lost. "
    -- Dennis Emery, Feilding Resource Centre for redundant Weddel workers, speaking to Gordon Campbell in the Listener.

    " I don't think your school would like you saying that to the Prime Minister. I don't think they would like you calling me a liar. I think you had better go. "
    -- Jim Bolger, admonishing a Burnside High student who said that Bolger's claim that no-one was starving in NZ was a lie.

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