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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.22

    3 August, 1995

    US Secretary of Labour ROBERT REICH presents a controversial picture of working life.

    The Christchurch City Council is to go ahead with its own work scheme aimed at the older jobless, regardless of whether the government approves a funding application. Christchurch Mayor Vicki Buck says she has been waiting for six months for the government to make a decision on support. She has now developed an amended job scheme proposal after meetings with the local NZ Employment Service. The council had already raised $1m to back the scheme - $500,000 from council money and $500,000 from the Trust Bank Community Trust. It also had good support from community groups, local branches of government agencies, the Chambers of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association.

    The Christchurch adult jobs scheme builds on the work of the already successful Jobskills programme which the council runs for younger people. The Christchurch Press reports that adult workers taken on for the scheme would work on community projects as part of a `stair-casing' strategy aimed at putting them into full-time industry jobs at the end of the programme. The adults would be paid $8.60 an hour, with these wages coming from several sources.

    Minister of Employment Wyatt Creech says he was holding back on supporting the Christchurch scheme because his own plans for a new national job scheme were already well advanced. His plans follow the multi-party accord on employment, and he says the new scheme will provide for local responses and responsibility in job assistance schemes under the guidelines recommended by the Employment Taskforce. Date for announcements : the end of August.

    Source - The Press 8 July 1995 "Job Scheme hold-ups anger Buck" and 21 July 1995 "Adult jobs scheme to go ahead `regardless'"
    The Education Review Office says that the push by Lockwood Smith to raise the school leaving age to 17 in 1998 is a major impediment to a "seamless" education system. The report says : "Schools may not be the most appropriate learning environment for everybody aged 17 years and under. Some young people may learn more effectively in an adult-centered environment such as a tertiary institution or workplace." It recommends the introduction of age-linked education vouchers, which students could choose to spend at school, or at any other approved training institution.
    Source - New Zealand Herald 13 July 1995 "Vouchers plan for students"
    For the first time, women have caught up with men in the unemployment stakes. The percentage out of work for both sexes in March this year was 9.6%
    Source - The Dominion 22 July 1995 "Working women breaking records"
    The Institute of Economic Research's quarterly survey of business opinion shows that 47% of employers in all sectors are finding it hard to hire skilled workers. Most serious shortages are in the building sector with 60% of employers finding it hard to obtain skilled staff.
    Source - The Dominion "Yardstick" 26 July 1995
    Waikato farmers report that a labour shortage is a major concern to the region. Federation Farmers says the shortage was forcing some farmers out of retirement, or forcing them to enlist the help of family members to run their farms. NZ Employment says that the problem suggests that people were no longer thinking of farming as a rewarding career.

    Martin Bennett, chairman of Farm Education and Training Association (Feta), and a farmer himself, says his colleagues have short memories. "They're suffering a backlash from last season when so many people were laid off," he told the Waikato Times. "It's a case of once bitten, twice shy..." During the summer drought, farm labourers were the first to go. In many cases they received no redundancy payments from their employers. Clive Dalton of the Waikato Polytech says the shortage might make farmers stop hiring and firing without thinking it through. He says that security of tenure was the biggest problem for workers.

    Source - The Waikato Times 21 July 1995 "Farmers face `backlash' on employment"
    Registered unemployment has increased slightly, although the number of long-term unemployed continues to fall. There were 156,185 people on the register at the end of June 1995, an increase of 3448 on the previous month. Long-term unemployed had dropped 3.2% or 2329 people, compared to the May figures.

    Labour has outlined its policies for supporting local economies by promising support for local initiatives rather than "bureaucratic meddling and cost-cutting". Ruth Dyson says their policies would involve local people delivering business and employment policies in ways which suited their needs with central government providing overall direction and co-ordination. Richard Northey says that a local economic leader would be identified, preferably the local authority, which would co-ordinate a network of local business and employment agencies.
    Source - New Zealand Herald 24 July 1995 "Labour outlines job scheme"
    The non-standard workforce - part-time and casual workers - accounts for about 43% of the Australian workforce. In a lecture in Wellington last week, University of Newcastle economist John Burgess says that welfare systems have not adjusted to the new trends in the workplace. Although part-time work provided flexibility for some staff and reduced costs for employers, it also resulted in less protection for workers. He also said that the non-standard workforce depended either on incomes of partners or other household members because their jobs were not sustaining a minimum standard of living. - NZPA
    Source - New Zealand Herald 24 July 1995 "Part-time worker struggles"
    The rapidly expanding part-time and casual labour force is sometimes overlooked when companies do their planning. Marie Wilson of the University of Auckland's Graduate School of Business says that part-timers should be included in company events, training and development: "Don't just assume they will just find out what's going on and how they will fit in ... whether they're permanent part-timers or casuals, employees need to identify with the organisation." Wilson recommends that companies extend their working conditions to cover all groups in the organisation, including part-time and temporary workers. "... In the end the investment in people may make the difference between what is expected by customers and what is delivered."
    Source - The Independent 21 July 1994 "Profile of a part-timer."
    "Moving to a just and sustainable society" is the theme of the People, Profits and the Planet seminar being held in Wellington 8-9 September 1995 by the Pacific Institute of Resource Management. The seminar will present and discuss a world view of trends towards globalisation, loss of moral values, poverty and wealth, and the breakdown of natural life-support systems.
    Contact PIRM, P.O.Box 12-125, Wellington 04-473-8312 fax 04-472-6374

    There has been something of a debate going on in Wellington's City Voice over economist Dennis Rose's advocacy of establishing a state agency which would have the responsibility for full employment. Rose : "...We need to rethink the way in which full employment is promoted. A central achievement of the Reserve Bank Act has been creating a system in which an independent official regularly reminds us of the importance of price stability and the factors that contribute to or militate against that. I think it would be useful to have some responsible person providing a similar service for the equally important goal of full employment ..."

    Ex-cabinet minister, and now economic consultant, David Butcher believes the idea is over-simplistic and poses a threat to the outcome it seeks. Butcher : "To say that employment should be the focus of one policy department is like saying that blooms should be the responsibility of one gardener, and roots and leaves the responsibility of another [...] The danger in Dennis Rose's idea is that by giving somebody this function, policymakers can kid themselves they have achieved something. The real answer is to focus all government policy advice on removing all obstacles to business competitiveness ..."

    Dennis Rose says he isn't suggesting there are any simple solutions to unemployment : " ... I have consistently argued the need for multiple policy responses including the promotion of innovation, productivity and competitiveness, increased emphasis on training and skill formation, more flexible workplaces and work practices, improved programmes of assistance for the unemployed, making it easier for people to move between paid and unpaid work and between full and part time work, and using whatever freedom of manoeuvre we may have within macro-economic policy [...] If each of these policy avenues could allow us to clip 1% off the unemployment rate, we would be back to full employment..."

    Source - David Butcher in letter to City Voice 6 July 1995 "Incentives for Growth" and Dennis Rose in 20 July 1995 "An agency for Jobs"
    The Social Welfare calculations that there is $500m in benefit fraud per year is equivalent to 10% of all income-related benefits paid out in a year. When questioned at the Parliamentary select committee, Social Welfare Risk Manager Adrian Sparrow says that people generally regarded "ripping off" Social Welfare as acceptable in the same way that drink-driving was acceptable a decade ago. He says the department was trying to change that attitude.
    Source - The Dominion 27 July 1995 "Benefit fraud may be $500m a year"
    With the current debate in this country about whether we should have tax cuts, or spend our budget surpluses on the `social deficit', it may be worth considering a scheme that would help do both at the same time. Jeremy Rifkin, American author of "The End of Work" (pub Tarcher/Putman) believes that governments should grant a tax credit for every hour a person volunteers to a non-profit charitable organisation that serves the local community.

    Rifkin says that with government programmes diminishing worldwide and social nets shrinking, an increasing burden is going to be placed on the non-profit sector to provide a range of basic needs and services in the community. A tax-credit-for-volunteering scheme could go a long way towards encouraging people to spend a greater share of their spare time to community work. While it would mean a loss of tax revenue to government, Rifkin believes this would be compensated for by a diminished need to pay for expensive government programmes that could be handled by volunteer efforts.

    The `social economy' is big business in America, but the contribution of volunteers is being eroded by the unemployment and poverty. More than 89 million Americans currently volunteer their time each year, and Rifkin estimates their contribution to be worth $182 billion to the social economy. Over the last five years, however, the number of people who volunteer (and the amount of time they give) has been dropping. Rifkin: " This is in large part because working people, anxious over diminishing wages and the loss of well-paying jobs, are spending more hours engaged in part-time work to bring in needed extra income."

    Source - "The End of Work" by Jeremy Rifkin (pub Jeremy P.Tharcher/ Putman) 1994 as summarised in The Utne Reader May-June 1995.

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