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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.6

    5 December, 1994

    Addressing NZ's Greatest Challenge

    The best report on employment in NZ for 20 years! This is the view of the editors of The Jobs Letter on reading the recently released report from the Prime Ministerial Task Force on Employment. While the proposals in the report are not revolutionary, they do go far beyond what was expected. The Task Force's report reflects a grasp of the employment situation that is well understood from a non-government point of view. The authors have shown clearly how their suggestions would effect a wide cross-section of the unemployed today. And they have laid out a provocative programme of action aimed at greater co-operation between political parties on employment policy issues, and a greater effectiveness from the government departments and agencies involved with education, industry training, business development and employment.

    The multi-party group of National, Labour and the Alliance will have until the end of January to come up with their response to the report. Watch for community groups and social service agencies pressing their MP's over the next two months to reach a multi-party accord that will reflect the spirit and content of this report. We feature an essential guide to the Task Force report as an insert to this edition of The Jobs Letter.

  • A major component of the Task Force report is the recommendation that government establish a network of Local Employment Commissioners who would be responsible for taking the lead in identifying and promoting local employment opportunities and business development plans. The report describes the commissioners as " an advocate, a mentor, and, if necessary, a thorn in the side of unhelpful bureaucrats..." Each commissioner would chair a Local Action Group, drawing on relevant government agencies, community groups, local government, employee organisations, business and Maori groups. The report also proposes a National Commissioner to oversee policy goals.

  • A major focus of the report is on creating more employment and economic opportunities for Maori people. The Task Force lays down a challenge to politicians to create a clear strategy for eliminating Maori disadvantage in the labour market by mid-1995. The report observes that the Treaty of Waitangi guarantees equal opportunities for all NZ'ers. This equality is not reflected in the unemployment statistic where 20% of Maori are unemployed compared to 6% of Pakeha. They also recommend measures to remove barriers to Maori business growth, particularly amongst Maori women.

    The Task Force also wants the government to soften the unpopular stand-down provisions for the dole. It recommends that the six-month stand-down for leaving a job without acceptable reason, be reduced to 3 months. It also says that unemployed people who do not take work or training opportunities that are offered should have their benefits reduced in stages by 20% for each month of non compliance. It also recommended that the 2-week stand down for anyone applying for income support be reduced to one week. The report also lays out a regime that will let the beneficiaries keep more of their earnings from part-time work.

    Source - Daily News 2/12/94 good and bad news for beneficiaries by Karen Floyd

    The appointment of network of Local Employment Commissioners
    The upgrading of the portfolio of Minister of Employment to a senior level
    Proposals to invest more in infrastructure to promote and sustain economic and employment growth
    Recommendations on changes to the Earnings Rules that will lessen the poverty trap
    Increasing the school leaving age to 17 years.


    A Ministry of Employment
    A stronger push for creating more `demand' in our economy.
    Consideration of proposals for introducing a basic minimum income.
    How we can cope with the redefinition of work in our culture
    How to make employment initiatives a clearer responsibility of local authorities.
    The government didn't waste any time getting legislation introduced into parliament for its no training-no dole moves. A day after the release of the Task Force report, and without warning, the government introduced a bill foreshadowing major changes to social welfare rules. Community welfare agencies have questioned its timing, especially when parliamentarians are still wading through the comprehensive recommendations on welfare reform in the Task Force Report.

    The Social Welfare Reform Bill will see unemployed people who refuse to undertake training courses will have their dole cut. These measures also lay the groundwork for the special youth employment package due to be announced in the coming week. At present, if an unemployed person turns down two jobs from the Employment Service without acceptable reason, they lose their dole for six months. Under the new Bill, if they also lose their dole if they turn down or withdraw from a training course for which they have been referred to by the Employment Service. Peter Gresham says these measures will not apply to people who took up the training voluntarily.

    Source _ New Zealand Herald 2/12/94, Bill wipes dole if training turned down
    It will also mean a relaxing of the stand-down provisions for the unemployment benefit. At present, anyone on an unemployment benefit who gets temporary work for three months or more, must wait two weeks before going back on the dole. This was seen as a disincentive for people to accept temporary work. Under the new Bill, a beneficiary can work for six months before the 2-wk stand-down applies.

    The Bill also relaxes travel rules for long-term beneficiaries; sets clearer eligibility criteria for the disability allowance; gives Social Welfare clearer authority for recovering loans and debts from its clients; and softens its stance on the effect of lump-sum income insurance payments on benefits.

    Slipped in with the new Social Welfare Reform Bill : provisions that will give Social Welfare impunity from human rights prosecutions, allowing it to continue discriminating on the grounds of sex and marital status up to December 1999.

    Staff shortages in the engineering sector are costing companies money as they turn down orders. Wage rises of up to 20% are being reported as employers compete for scarce tradespeople. Rex Jones, secretary of the Engineers Union, says that it is not uncommon to see wages paid at $20 an hour, compared to the $12.50 an hour a year ago. He says that the shortages were the result of a failure by government and employers to invest adequately in training in recent years. Skills in high demand : mechanical engineers, fitters, instrument technicians, and stainless steel welders. Areas of high demand : The five main cities and also New Plymouth, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Invercargill.

    Staff shortages in the building industry are described as being at a `crisis level' with calls to government for more action. Trevor Allesbrook of the Building and Construction ITO has been discussing with polytechnics plans to recruit 200 people on to plaster-board and fibrous plaster courses. The ITO also plans to take on 1000 carpentry apprentices next year, taking it back up to the level before apprentices dropped off in the mid-1980's.
    Source _ The Dominion 24/11/94, Building boom brings skills crisis,

    Other staff shortages in this industry include quantity surveyors, and architects. Karl Bale of the Quantity Surveyors Institute says that there were usually 150 quantity surveyors trained each year in the polytechs, but this year only 50 would graduate. Funding cuts means that polytechs were cutting back the training courses. All the present graduates have jobs, and another 50 surveyors were needed immediately, says Bale.

    Source _ The Dominion 25/11/94, Surveyor shortage `a worry'
    The government is sending a clear message to Polytechs : your future funding will rely more heavily on government job training programmes and less on traditional education funding based on what the students are choosing to study. Lockwood Smith says that the present funding formula was spending more on Polytech courses in social sciences, the liberal arts and business studies, and less for polytech courses in the trades and science. Smith says the current skills shortages in the building and construction industries show that the system is not delivering the skills, knowledge and qualifications that employers are looking for. In future, Industry Training Organisations will decide a proportion of Polytech funding through the Skill New Zealand fund.
    Source _ New Zealand Herald 21/11/94, Polytechnic funding shift by Andrew Laxon
    While we have been hard at work in this country with the Employment Task Force, a similar exercise has been completed in Australia with the release of a white paper called Working Nation. Their paper was similarly based on public consultations throughout Australia in the last year, The centrepiece of the new Australian policies is the $3 billion Job Compact strategy which will apply to all those who have been in receipt of unemployment allowances for 18 months or more. The compact undertakes to provide a job placement for 6-12 months, primarily in the private sector. The package also includes more intensive `case management', training and support to ensure the unemployed person is `job ready', and job search assistance and referrals to suitable vacancies at the end of the Job Compact job. There is a `reciprocal obligation' built in to the Job Compact where the unemployed have to accept `a reasonable job offer' or lose their entitlement to income support. Sound familiar ?

  • When reviewing the Australian White Paper on employment, Roy Green, of Australia's Employment Studies Centre at the University of Newcastle, believes that it ignores calls for more direct job creation by the Australian Government. Green, writing in the Current Affairs Bulletin, says that people are unemployed not because they have the wrong skills or live in the wrong area, but because there is simply not enough demand in the economy to support the level of output needed to employ them. He believes that the case for direct job creation in Australia is being ignored because government policy makers believe that unemployment is due to high wage costs and a skills mismatch rather than lack of "demand" in the economy. This `official' view of what is causing unemployment leads to the equally orthodox solutions : having wage subsidies available to help employers pay for new staff, running training programmes in job skills, or creating schemes to make the long-term unemployed "job-ready".

    Green believes the orthodox measures will not be enough unless Australia also engages active demand management through public-sector job creation. Green : " Training courses, though worthwhile in themselves, offer no solution to demand-efficient unemployment, especially when many of the jobless already have relevant skills. And wage subsidies are likely to have the effect in a depressed labour market of displacing current workers rather than creating additional jobs ... The most cost effective way to reduce the numbers of unemployed and increase demand in the economy is to create new jobs directly in public sector projects and services. "

    The Australian Government also plans to have all young people under 20 yrs in some form of work, training, or education. Policies designed to achieve this, however, are considered to be causing increasing financial hardship and conflict within families, according to Peter McDonald, a consultant to the Australian Urban and Regional Development Review. Job Search and study allowances, apprenticeships, and even some full-time award wages all provide support for young people at a level insufficient to guarantee their independence from their families. This is forcing more and more young people to continue living at home. McDonald reports that the protracted dependence of young people on their parents creates financial and emotional strain on the whole family. Prediction : This will continue to be a source of irresolvable conflict in low to middle income families.

    Reforming welfare is certainly on the global agenda. New measures will soon be introduced into the American Congress to radically redefine American assumptions about state provisions for welfare, and, if passed, will be the most revolutionary change in welfare legislation for half a century. When newly elected Republicans take hold of Congress in two month's time, they plan to introduce a "Personal Responsibility Act" which will restrict welfare to a 5-year lifetime limit, and set a limit on the amount money available for welfare - less than that available now. When the money runs out, people who now qualify for assistance will no longer get it. The plan will also deny aid to unmarried young mothers unless they identify the father or submit the names and addresses of three men who could be the father. One advocacy group says this measure alone will disqualify 3 million of the 9.5 million children currently getting help. Republicans say their intent is "to help, cajole, lure or force adults off welfare and into paid employment as quickly as possible." The plan has drawn Senate support. Phil Gramm (R) Texas :" I think it is time to ask the 40 million people riding on the welfare wagon to get out of the wagon and help everybody else pull ... "

    What to do about 70 million possums? There are many creative ideas on how to turn the possum pest into an opportunity for jobs. Fashion houses of the world are pushing up the prices for possum skins, and Christchurch's Rocke United skins dealer is taking as many skins as it can get. The company is handling 15 thousand skins a week, and pays up to $14 for 1st-grade skins. In the North Island, however, prices are lower with top grade skins reaching no more than $7 each. Other opportunities in possums : On the East Coast, they are called `game' and tourists are being lured out onto spotlighting hunts. In Auckland, there are calls to farm them and sell the meat to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia, where they are known as `kiwi bears'.

  • The 1080 poison debate is predominantly an employment issue as to whether DOC employs local trappers to cull the possum pest rather than spend the money on air dropping poison pellets. Protesters from the largely Maori community of Mangamuka in the Hokianga say they want to negotiate other options with the Conservation Department. Mangamuka's residents - who are 95% unemployed - want ground-based possum control methods used to create jobs. They also fear that the 1080 poison drops will damage the forests - an untenable option for the Ngapuhi people who look to the forests for Maori traditional medicines. Huhana Oneroa says that residents have submitted many proposals to the Conservation Department for trapping and shooting, to no avail. They have also proposed linking up with a big pet food maker.

  • DOC already employs many trappers, but has long held the belief that the trapping solution has been shown to fail as a complete solution, and is far more expensive than poisoning. Their argument, based on previous experience with rabbits in the South Island, is that trappers tend to cull the pests to levels aimed at maintaining a readily accessible and healthy population from which they can gain an income. Less accessible areas tend to be avoided by the trappers because they prove less cost-effective for them.

  • It appears that the solutions to possum control are not a case of either 1080 or trapping, but perhaps both. Before and during the 1080 drops in Egmont National Park, the Taranaki Regional Council hired Taskforce Green workers for possum control. When scheme funding ran out, and also after an extensive programme of 1080 poison drops, the Council was aware there was public interest by farmers and other landowners in continuing eradication. The TRC encouraged some of the workers to undertake business skills training, and go into business as contract poisoners. Some of them now run their own commercial pest eradication businesses based on the experience they obtained on Taskforce Green.
    Source - New Zealand Herald 8/12/94 Inquiry on 1080 demanded, The Dominion 12/12/94 Anti-possum efforts need more work says report, New Zealand Herald 5/12/94 Options to poison drops `feasible', New Zealand Herald 10/12/94 1080 letter `wrong', com 26/10/94 Pay jobless to kill off possums _ researcher, The Dominion 18/10 94 From possum to `Kiwi bear', New Zealand Herald 28/9/94 Opossum skins going up, Daily News 12/10/94 Pest controller targets possums by Mike Bowler, New Zealand Herald 29/11/94 1080 protesters pitch camp in the gorge, , New Zealand Herald 28/11/94 Posion protest foiled , The Dominion 29/11/94 Protestors cmp oput to stop air drops, , Daily News 29/11/94 Protesters against 1080 to camp out, The Dominion 26/11/94 Protesters stop Far North poison drop, , The Dominion 31/10/94 Possum poison drops opposed by Alan Samson, New Zealand Herald 30/11/94 Oppossum poison drop to proceed, New Zealand Herald 1/12/94 Police repel hill charge by poison protesters, The Dominion 30/12/94 Possum poisoning programme successful

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