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    Letter No.32
    29 January, 1996

    7 January 1996

    President Clinton signs bills re-opening all of the US Federal government after agreeing to Congress demands that he submit a balanced budget. The bills will put 760,000 Federal workers back on the payroll.

    Statistics NZ reports that NZ's `Generation X' young people (aged 18-29 years) are finding it hard to find `career' jobs and instead are opting for low-level service industry employment.

    8 January 1996

    Only half the British teachers recruited by the government to fill 100 vacancies in primary schools will arrive in time for the new school year.

    10 January 1996

    The trade-weighted index, a measure of the NZ dollar's value against the currencies of major trading partners, has soared from 62.2 before Xmas to more than 63, its highest level in more than seven years.

    11 January 1996

    German economists are warning of a sharp slowdown in their economy in 1996. The German unemployment rate has risen sharply in the last month from 9.3% to 9.9% and could reach four million people unemployed. Labour Minister Norbert Bluemman describes the figures as an "alarm signal of the highest urgency..."

    12 January 1996

    The Income Support Service reports that more than $1 million was spent on special needs grants for food in the week before Christmas. The demand for these grants has since dropped to $420,000 per week.

    Real Estate agents Barfoot and Thompson say that their average price for an Auckland property is $228,000, compared to their December 1992 average of $169,399.

    Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry reports that their foodbank has been twice as busy as `normal' since Christmas.

    13 January 1996

    Social Welfare Minister Peter Gresham estimates that about 30,000 NZ families were disadvantaged, but he says that what might constitute poverty is a subject "of much inconclusive debate". Mr Gresham based his figures on a Christchurch Child Development study which found that about 5% of all families are likely to have "persistent and multiple disadvantage"...

    15 January 1996

    The Australian unemployment rate has fallen to 8.1% its lowest rate in five years.

    16 January 1996

    The governor-general, Dame Cath Tizard, is reported in North and South magazine as saying she "cannot believe the idiocy" of the health reforms and she despairs that all NZers can apparently no longer rely on the state school for an excellent education. Commenting on the welfare state, she said: " We seem to have tossed out the baby with the bathwater, so that those who deserve and need state support aren't getting any ..."

    The Housing Corporation is to sell off its remaining mortgages, totalling nearly $1 billion. This will virtually end its role as a long-term mortgage provider.

    7 January 1996

    The government rebukes Dame Cath for her recent criticisms of policies, saying her comments break long-held constitutional conventions.

    18 January 1996

    Forestry Minister John Falloon, who is considering the sale of the Kaingaroa Forest, has released a report on previous forest sales which shows strong gains in employment and investment from such sales. He says that since 1991, the industry has created more than 6400 jobs and should soon be employing more people than at its previous peak.

    Maori occupying the meatworks near Bennydale have gone home after an agreement was reached to reopen the plant. A syndicate, including a major Indian investor, has bought the meatworks.

    19 January 1996

    The Alliance reports that 80% of those on basic income support, such as unemployment benefit, are having to apply for up to nine types of supplementary assistance to meet their needs. Social Welfare figures show that between 1990-1995, a 150% increase in people receiving accommodation supplement, 150% increase in disability allowance, and 68% more people getting a special benefit.

    Labour criticises the Children and Young People's Service for handing out hefty bonuses to managers while underpaying social workers.

    20 January 1996

    The government reports an operating surplus of $2.62 billion for the 5 months to Nov 95 $636 million ahead of forecast.

    21 January 1996

    The teacher Registration Board warns that many of the overseas teachers hired to fill the classroom shortages are inexperienced and need extra training.

    Between 300-400 schools will be short of teachers at the start of the school year.

    22 January 1996

    A Massey University study says that owning your own home in NZ is getting harder to achieve, after a 5% rise in the national median house price in the last quarter of 1995. The study says that house prices are still rising and mortgages are becoming less affordable, with Auckland house prices rising 33% in the last two years, compared to a rise in Wellington of only 5.6%.

    Social Welfare says that about 15 women a month are getting advances on their domestic purposes benefits in order to pay for abortions. These figures follow a Family Planning Association survey which concluded that many women on low incomes could not afford contraception.

    Dame Cath says she regrets the recent comments which were widely seen as her acting in a political role. She feels she has let herself and her term of office down by making the comments.

    24 January 1996

    Social workers and the police express deep concern about child prostitution in Christchurch's inner city.

    25 January 1996

    The Australian union movement launches a booklet "So you want to go to NZ" which is critical of the social costs of economic reform in New Zealand.

    17% of farmers in the lower North Island say they are going to quit farming over the next five years. 35% cite poor returns as their reason for pulling out, while 43% are retiring because of old age.

    26 January 1996

    Despite starting the school year with 500 teachers short, the government denies there is any crisis. Jim Bolger: "Schools have always had to cover teacher shortages. I think we've done remarkably well..."

    The government plans to spend public money to send a pamphlet to every household explaining the details of its tax-cut package.

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