Essential Information on an Essential Issue
3 August, 1995
- A WARNING BELL
US Secretary of Labour ROBERT REICH presents a controversial picture of working life.
- CHRISTCHURCH CREATES ITS OWN WORK SCHEME
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
- ERO DOES NOT SUPPORT HIGHER SCHOOL LEAVIING AGE
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
Source - New Zealand Herald 13 July 1995 "Vouchers plan for students"
- EQUAL OPPORTUNITY UNEMPLOYED
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"
- SKILLS SHORTAGES
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
- FARM LABOUR SHORTAGE
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"
- SLIGHT CHANGE IN UNENPLOYMENT RATE
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 WOULD SUPPORT LOCAL ECONOMIC INITIATIVES
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"
- NON-STANDARD WORK MASSIVE IN AUSTRALIA
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"
- INCLUDING CASUALS AS PART OF THE COMPANY
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."
- PEOPLE, PROFITS AND THE PLANET SEMINAR
"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
- A `RESERVE BANK' FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT
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"
- OUT TO CHANGE ATTITUDES TOWARDS BENEFIT FRAUD
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"
- LETS HAVE TAX CUTS AND SOCIAL SPENDING
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
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