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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.25

    26 September, 1996

    Redefining the Job

    The Employment Taskforce saga continues ... Announcements of any new government jobs schemes or initiatives arising from the Employment Taskforce process will now be made in mid-October, according to a spokesperson from Wyatt Creech's office. The "comprehensive response" will include the government's own agenda of action on employment and training, and will be "consistent with the agreements made in the multi-party accord" released in June.

  • What will be in this package? The government's plan for action is somewhat unpredictable, given the almost universal disgruntlement amongst community groups with the multi-party accord, and the low government priority of pro-active employment action in the midst of our `recovering' economy.

    Documents obtained by The Jobs Letter indicate some of the options under discussion by the Cabinet Committee on Education, Training and Employment: The extension of `individualised assistance' to other categories of job seekers; final decisions on new abatement rate schedule for beneficiaries and changes to benefit stand-down provisions; a decision on how local employment co-ordination will take place including whether local employment co-ordinators and facilitators will be appointed; decisions on whether or not to expand the Community Employment Group's (CEG) contestable fund especially to help local community groups develop a "strategic community plan"; decisions on whether to increase the skill level and number of CEG field staff; decisions on increasing the flexibility of criteria for Task Force Green referrals and the NZES Innovation Fund; and a comprehensive package of job strategies aimed at the Maori and Pacific Island communities.

    Source - phonecall from Benedicta Jensen, Minister of Employment's Office

    also leaked paper Paula Rebstock General Manager of Labour Market Policy Group paper to the Cabinet Committee on Education, Training and Employment 26 June 1995

    The number of unemployed registered with NZ Employment continues to fall, with last month's figure being 150,626 people.

    There were 9,040 notified job vacancies at NZ Employment during August, of which 59% were still unfilled at the end of the month.

    There are 16.6 people registered unemployed people for every notified vacancy at NZ Employment.

    Source - fax from New Zealand Employment to the Jobs Letter, September 1995

    The Job Action programme is the government's main strategy to reduce the numbers of those registered as unemployed for more than two years. The nationwide programme, often run by contractors outside of the department, provides an interview for the unemployed person followed by a one-week workshop to help the person produce a job-hunting plan. It is a part of the `individualised' strategy of assistance that is now a key feature of many welfare initiatives.

    The figures seem to be showing the success of this approach Employment Minister Wyatt Creech says that since January 1994 there has been a 41% fall in the numbers of longer-term unemployed (for more than 2 yrs) with the August figure now standing at 23,115 people. The `word from Wellington' is that officials are considering extending the eligibility criteria of Job Action to people who are less than the current 2-yr unemployment criteria. We may see some news of this in next month's employment package.

    Source - The Dominion 15 September 1995 "Registered Jobless decrease continues..."

    The latest Lampen group survey of 500 nationwide businesses has shown that more than half the businesses in Wellington and Auckland are suffering from shortages of skilled staff. The figures: 55% of Auckland businesses, 63% of Wellington businesses and 35% of Christchurch businesses said they are affected. The survey found the shortages most extreme in sales and marketing, secretarial, customer services, accounting, computer and `top reception staff'.

    Roger Lampen believes that the shortages are explained by the economic upturn, and the tightening of the labour market. He says: "Employers are no longer able to attract skilled labour from the unemployment lines. They must instead attract labour that is working for another business, from overseas, or teach untrained labour the skills to do the job.

    Source - The Dominion 20 September 1995 "Skill shortage reflects training deficiency

    The Lampen survey also shows that few companies have formal procedures in place for the career development of their staff. While 72% of respondents said their companies had made a commitment to career development, only a few of them were actually tracking those careers or had clear succession planning or human resource guidance for employees.

    The most common procedures for fostering career development mentioned by employers in the survey were: performance appraisals, further training, advertising positions internally, and internal promotions.

    Source - The Dominion 20 September 1995 "Skill shortage reflects training deficiency

    A report from the Association of Citizen Advice Bureaus says that income support benefits are too low and beneficiaries are struggling on current levels to cover their rent, power and food costs. The report "Mending holes in the safety net" recommends benefits be increased, criteria made more flexible, and that processes for setting up payments and establishing eligibility be streamlined. It also calls for a review of Housing NZ rentals and accommodation supplement criteria, and a reduction in the barriers that beneficiaries face when returning to the workforce or further education.

    Association President Jill Van Angeren says that increases in food and rental costs were reducing the amount people had to spend on food, doctor's bills or other basic expenses. She says the voluntary sector was being forced to respond more with food parcels, emergency housing and other help.

    Source - The Dominion 12 September 1995 "Benefit levels too low, says report" by Helen Bain.

    The Rev Charles Waldegrave believes that, with NZ's budget surpluses, there should be no need for foodbanks. Waldegrave, from the Anglican Family Centre in Lower Hutt, says that the fruits of overall economic recovery are there, but they are not being employed to address fundamental issues of equity. Waldegrave told Wellington's City Voice: "Five years ago, nobody had heard of a foodbank. Now most churches collect food every Sunday for them ...". He describes social justice as a re-awakened area of church activity, and advocates greater urgency on Christian attitudes towards poverty in society.
    Source - City Voice 14 September 1995 "No need for foodbanks".

    Prime Minister Jim Bolger believes that NZ'ers could do much more to contribute to voluntary organisations. In an address to the NZ Council of Social Services, he noted that the average New Zealand adult only gives 1.7hrs a month to voluntary work. Bolger: "Voluntary involvement in whatever form is a mark of a cohesive society ... I acknowledge that much of the voluntary work in the community is shouldered by relatively few energetic, enthusiastic, but often overworked, individuals."
    Source - Jim Bolger "Address to NZ Council of Social Services", Wellington 11 September 1995

    A Te Puni Kokiri report shows that nearly 65% of Maoris living in the Te Rarawa region of the Far North are users or former users of cannabis. 39% of those surveyed say they smoke marijuana regularly, and only 36% said they did not use it at all. Te Runanga o te Rarawa says in the report that cannabis use in the Far North has reach epidemic proportions. It linked joblessness, inadequate housing and low educational achievement with the widespread use, and says that "no intervention which ignores these factors is likely to be successful." The report says that perhaps the greatest cause for concern " ... is the fact that many youth believe that growing cannabis is the only way to make money in their community..."
    Source - The Daily News 14 September 1995 "Marijuana epidemic in the Far North"

    The Just Dollar$ Trust in Christchurch is having excellent success with its lending programme to small enterprises. It has lent over $220,000 to 72 local projects which are employing 106 people.

    The Trust has recently launched its first Starting Small borrower group. In this lending programme, five people (usually friends or members of a local community) form a borrower group. Loans of $500 from the Trust are disbursed two at a time, with the borrower group deciding the order in which members receive them. As well as providing those in the borrower group with an opportunity to support each other in their projects, the group is responsible for administering the loans, meeting small savings targets, and ensuring repayments.

    The groups meet weekly in their neighbourhood, and the loans are repaid at $10 a week. Once the loans have been repaid, the members will be eligible for larger loans of $1000, or more. Andrew Scott from Just Dollar$ says that the Starting Small programme is available to anyone on a low income: " It provides a means for them to empower themselves in a supportive group environment..."

    For further information: Andrew Scott, Just Dollar$ Trust, P.O.Box 4232, Christchurch 03-366-9978

    Source - Fax to the Jobs Research Trust "Just Dollar$ Loans Update 31 August 1995"

    . John Patterson of the Mature Employment Support Association ( responding to Jobs Letter 24 ) writes: " The Mature Employment Service has no age limit, neither up nor down. No-one is turned away. Having said that, in the main MES centres work with unemployed people over 40 years of age with the majority being in the over 50 age group. This is because this group has particular needs and usually prefer to discuss their needs with their own peer group. It is as simple as that.

    " Some people feel that they are missing out on jobs because of age. Most have been conditioned over the years to travel one particular road and they require assistance to change direction. This is what MES was set up to do help people change direction and start again."

    Source - Letter to the Jobs Research Trust 12 September 1995

    The end of the job, as prophesied by William Bridges in his book Jobshift, is part of a "Hollywood scenario" which is trying to make a virtue of something which doesn't present itself as particularly virtuous to those who are faced with work that is no longer secure. This is the view of Chris Eichbaum, Director of Labour Studies at Massey University, who is one of many commentators interviewed by Margie Sullivan in her feature on "Redefining Work" published in the August issue of NZ Business.

    Eichbaum: "There's the idealistic view that there will always be a movable feast of work. That we will move from one kind of `set' to another with a variety of `roles'. That people will be free to make their contribution in different times and in different ways and then the `set' will be taken down and relocated somewhere else... Now that's fine in theory, and for some people in professional occupations it presents as a real opportunity, but for others the threats in terms of economic and job security are enormous."

    Eichbaum believes there's a danger in moving towards a work environment where labour is `commodified' like any other factor of production, where it's considered infinitely malleable in terms of time, conditions and output. "But labour, unlike other factors of production, has a capacity for thought and creativity, and an innovative organisation needs to maximise its contribution from labour. You're not going to get that if you treat that contribution as entirely disposable..."

    Source - NZ Business August 1995 "Redefining work: Why the job is under threat" by Margie Sullivan

    Full employment is possible, if we share out the available work through a four-day week. This is the view of Ken Chandler of Hamilton, who spoke to a WEA meeting in Palmerston North last week. Chandler has published his own proposal for encouraging a four-day working week, especially amongst the existing lower skilled jobs. Chandler: " We must share the available work more fairly by making it easy and affordable for those who are willing to change from a five-day (40hr) week to a four-day (32hr) week. "

    His solution is to use the taxation system to give tax credits to people working less than 32 hours a week. His scheme is aimed at low-income workers and would use the tax-credit system to discourage these people from working when they realised they would get little more in their take-home pay for working longer hours. There would be no financial cost to the employer, and the government would recoup the costs of its tax credits through direct savings on the present costs of unemployment. Chandler says that for every four people who chose the shorter working week, one extra could be employed. "Unemployment - Problems and a Solution" paper by Ken Chandler, P.O.Box 11-060, Hamilton

    A Campaign for a Four-Day Week in New Zealand is now active with its patron being Dr Martyn Finlay, Q.C. Contacts: Ken Chandler in Hamilton 07-856-7674, Carol Chambers in Palmerston North 06-357-1498, and John Rhodes in Greytown 06-304-9095.

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