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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.16

    3 May, 1995

    The multi-party group examining the Employment Taskforce recommendations has come under some heat for their slowness to produce an action plan after last November's report. Taskforce member and CTU President Ken Douglas criticised the government earlier last month for not acting soon enough on the Taskforce recommendations. Douglas : "What annoys me and frankly angers me is what I see as a blatant hypocrisy and lack of integrity of politicians who simply refuse to act even when the work is done for them ..."

  • The multiparty political group examining the Employment Taskforce proposals has issued a special statement saying they will produce their final report in mid-June with a memorandum of understanding between the Government, the Alliance and Labour Parties. They will have had 11 meetings by then to discuss the detail of the 120 proposals, and the parties will have also met with their own advisory groups to hammer out a consensus.

  • The crux of a multi-party accord will be their ability to attract funding from government for their programme of action on jobs. The mid-June date is too late for funding for specific initiatives to be announced in this year's Budget (due for June 1st). Wyatt Creech, however, doesn't see this as any problem : "What we have demonstrated with the Youth Employment Strategy is a willingness to react quickly once we have made the policy decisions. And I am quite sure that willingness is still there..."

  • Meanwhile, the Community Employment Group (CEG) - the government's major funder of community-based employment initiatives - is urging groups to seek sponsorship that is independent of government sources. The Jobs Letter has previously reported (see JL10) that CEG has put the brakes on funding community employment projects as the demand for funds is exceeding supply. There is also criticism from community groups that while there is ready access to funding for the start-up stages of projects, there are few government agencies that will provide longer-term ongoing funding, even for successful programmes. Also, with the government emphasis on funding `programmes and not agencies', many local groups report that they are constantly struggling to meet their own overheads.

  • In an article in this month's Employment Matters, Associate Employment minister Roger Maxwell clearly states the government position : "... there is increased competition for limited resources, requiring priorities to be set and restrictions imposed on contracts, " he says. "I make no apologies for this. The government has long maintained the view that agencies should not come to depend on the Community Employment Group or other government agencies for financial support." Maxwell says that agencies contracted to run programmes should not be using CEG funds to "prop up the operational expenses of the agencies themselves. If a programme can be better delivered by an alternative provider, then the contract may be awarded elsewhere."

    Maxwell believes that agencies could implement a form of cost recovery for their services, and seek support from sponsors independent of Government. He cites Business Grow as an example of one programme that has attracted significant private sector sponsorship, and suggests that this sort of "independence" could be repeated with other employment and enterprise assistance programmes such as Be Your Own Boss and Mainstreet.

    Source Employment Matters April, 1995
    Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, has drawn up a list of policy options on getting Maori back to work, including the appointment of a Maori Commissioner of Employment. The ideas were presented to the Cabinet committee on employment, training and enterprise two weeks ago, and are expected to inject a strong Maori dimension into the Employment Taskforce's final programme of action. Ministry chief executive Wira Gardiner is enthusiastic about the proposals : " They are probably the most comprehensive set I've seen developed in the 10 years I've been involved in Government ..." Details are still under wraps until they are fully considered by the Cabinet, but the Sunday Star-Times reports the strategies will be directed at cities where the largest concentrations of Maori live.

    The NZ Futures Trust believes that implementing the Taskforce's proposals on employment should bring a significant drop in the numbers of the unemployed with the present upswing in the economy, but "it is questionable if this could be sustained during the next recession..." The Futures Trust says that the Taskforce proposals tend to address `cyclic' unemployment (unemployment that is dependent on the boom-recession cycle) and do not recognise the underlying `structural' unemployment due to the new work environment.

    Future's Trust : " There appears to be little recognition that the increased skills needed for the automated work scene tends to increase the pool of people who would be unable to participate successfully (not everybody can `up-skill'). With the internationalisation of businesses, we could have a lot less control of the range of business activities that will be available in NZ, and the workforce could be imported rather than local. The implications of a majority of women of working age on a permanent basis are not addressed [in the recommendations] except perhaps indirectly in the support for early childhood education..."

    Source from Future Times 95/1
    Australia's "Working Nation" employment and training programmes are now considered some of the world's most progressive employment initiatives. The Working Nation programmes were drawn up after a process similar to NZ's Employment Taskforce. The Bulletin last week reported that international delegations have been visiting Australia almost weekly to study the programmes run by the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) - with groups from Thailand, Indonesia and Russia in the past month alone. DEET officers have been sent to advise foreign governments, including those of Turkey, Kazakhstan and South-East Asian countries.

    One of the prime targets of the Australian $10.3 billion Working Nation jobs programme is its special initiatives to meet the high unemployment faced by some ethnic groups. About 20% of all long-term job seekers in Australia are from non-English-speaking backgrounds. Their unemployment rate is 14%, compared to 9.2% of other Australians. The highest rates are recorded amongst migrants from Lebanon, Vietnam, the Middle east and North Africa. Working Nation has special initiatives such as extra funding for English as a second language, and also the placement of 51 Migrant Liaison Officers (MLOs) across the country to encourage participation in job creation schemes. They are also targeting ethnic employers, who, often because of language difficulties themselves, are not taking advantage of DEETs job programmes such as training and Jobstart wage subsidies.

    There has been a five-fold increase in Pacific Islander unemployment in NZ since 1987, a Massey University study shows. The study, by senior economics lecturer Anne de Bruin and sociology lecturer Ann Dupuis, finds that Pacific Islanders have the highest level of unemployment in NZ. While comprising just 3% of the population, they made up 10% of the unemployed. About 21.3% of Pacific Islanders were unemployed, compared to 18.1% of Maoris and 5.5% of Europeans.

    The study recommends that "community entrepreneurship" should be encouraged amongst Pacific Island communities, especially in hard-hit areas like Otara where the percentage of beneficiaries is four times that for all of Auckland. The lecturers have put forward an Otara case study in which community entrepreneurship could "convert Otara to a desirable visitor destination" by developing a marketplace, community arts and cultural centre, cultural trail and festival. They suggest the area could become a "South Pacific visual experience" with gateways, canopies and artwork.

    The rising dollar is killing jobs in manufacturing, says Rex Jones, the national secretary of the Engineers Union. The NZ dollar has risen this year from 83c to 92.25c Australian, and from US 64c to US 67.21c. Jones : "The rising dollar is stripping profits from companies that are trying to compete against Australian manufacturers. He cites one company which forecast it would lose $1 million for every cent the kiwi dollar rose above A82c. Jones is critical of Manufacturers Federation calls that companies should keep ahead of the currency rises by increasing productivity and making greater efficiencies. " These companies have taken all the steps required to become competitive, and workers have also contributed to productivity increases, and their hard work is being undermined by the dollar rise ..."
    Source The Daily News, 24/4/95, Rising dollar killing jobs: Jones
    The number of registered unemployed with the NZ Employment Service is continuing to drop. The March figures are at 160,088 people, which is down 18% or 35,133 people from the same time last year. Again, NZES figures for long-term unemployed are falling at a faster rate than the overall figures. Those registered for 6 months or longer have dropped 23.2% in the last year to 76,038 people.
    Source New Zealand Herald, 21/4/95, Drop in jobless, The Dominion,21/4/95, Jobless fall expected to slow
    The Possum Products Marketing Group (PPMG) has been developing strategies for jobs in the possum industry, in conjunction with efforts to reduce overall possum numbers. The group wants government assistance and co-operation in promoting possum fur to overseas markets in an effort to give stability of income to those involved in the industry. PPMG is currently running training courses for new hunters (most are previously unemployed) and also retraining ex-hunters in the current methods of the fur industry. PPMG calculates that every million exported skins would lead to the creation of 250 full time equivalent jobs, would return nett foreign exchange to NZ of $7.4 million, and increase domestic business activity by $3 million.

    PPMG Members include Chris Taylor (a 3rd generation fur trader), Gordon Tocher(Skin Executive of Taimex Trading), Bruce Warburton (Pest management specialist and researcher), Barry Mercer (possum and deer hunter), Vic Moss (TradeNZ export), Neil Alan (Opotiki Enterprise Agency), and Neville Forman (Community Employment Group). Contact Neil Allan ph 07-315-7132 fax 07-315-6450.

    Much interest has been expressed in the Harvey Brenner statistics quoted in the last Jobs Letter. Brenner's research into the effects of unemployment on health have been extensively quoted for nearly two decades. His data suggests that a 10% rise in unemployment will lead to a 19% increase in heart disease mortality, a 19% increase in cirrhosis of the liver, a 41% increase in the suicide rate, a 57% increase in the homicide rate, a 34% increase in mental hospitals admissions, and a 40% increase in prison admissions.

    Sources of Brenner quantitative data : "The Impact of Social and Industrial Changes on Psychopathy" in Society, Stress and Disease, edited by Lennart Levi (pub Oxford University Press, 1981). Also, "Estimating the Social Costs of National Economic Policy" by M. Harvey Brenner, Report to the Joint Economic Commission, Congress of the United States, 1976) and Brenner's book "Mental Illness and the Economy" (pub Harvard University Press, 1973)

    Asian Development Bank Conference, is being held this week 2-5 May 1995, in Auckland. This is the 28th annual meeting of the Bank that was founded in the 1960's to channel money from Japan and the west into Asia for development projects. Watch for live television coverage of the Bank conference, and a seminar on "NZ - the turnaround economy" (featuring Bill Birch and Don Brash). Watch also for groups demonstrating against the bad environmental and social effects of some Bank-funded projects, and a concurrent NGO meeting which hopes to lobby the Bank towards more people-centred development projects.

    The Harkness Employment Conference on Employment and the Future of Work will be held next week 9-10 May 1995, in the Parkroyal Hotel in Wellington. This is being run by the Institute of Policy Studies, Victoria University, in Wellington in conjunction with the US-based Harkness Fellowships and the Harkness Commonwealth Fund. Registration is $900 per participant. International experts will be speaking from the USA, UK and Australia. Subjects include an international perspective on employment issues, technology, skills training and treaty issues related to employment.

    "Paths Out of Poverty : The Role of NGOs" is a major Commonwealth conference being held 18-23 June 1995, in Wellington. It is being organised by the Commonwealth Foundation (London) in conjunction with ANGOA (the Association of Non Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa), and will be attended by 150 invited delegates from 51 Commonwealth countries. Contact ANGOA P.O.Box 12-470 Wellington. ph 04-472-6375 fax 04-472-7374

    "Co-operation Not Competition in the Community Sector" is the theme of the COMMACT Aotearoa Conference being held 25-27 June 1995, in Wellington. COMMACT is the Commonwealth Association for Local Axtion and Economic Development which is promoting `people-centred' development, especially in the employment area. Speakers include well-respected international employment consultant Colin Ball from the UK, Abdulla Baginda, the COMMACT Director from Malaysia, and Mrs Sithembiso Nyoni from the African Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress. Contact Kura Geere-Watson ph 03-352-6075 fax 03-343-3390

    CHOGM - the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be one of the largest inter-governmental conferences held in NZ 10-13 November 1995, in Auckland and Queenstown. An Alternative Forum = to CHOGM is being organised bringing together grassroots and NGO organisations to showcase alternative economic, social and political strategies for action. The Building Our Own Future Network (BOOF) is sponsoring the Alternative Forum and they are presently seeking overseas keynote speakers. Contact Alternative Forum, P.O.Box 984 Nelson ph 03-548-0386.

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