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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.68

    3 November, 1997

    Feedback on the Coalition Government Employment Policies from the Employment Implementation Steering Group.
    Objectives of Regional Delivery of Employment Services ... the Local Government NZ Proposals
    Voices ... Comments made in the submissions to the Employment Implementation Steering Group.

    The British Labour Party has celebrated its return to power after 19 years in opposition by setting the ambitious goal of providing a job for everyone in the new millenium. The Finance Chancellor Gordon Brown made the dramatic pledge at the opening day of the Labour Party's annual conference last month. He says the party's revival of its traditional pledge to full employment will be achieved by promoting long term economic stability and reshaping the tax and welfare benefits system to encourage the unemployed and the low-paid.

    Brown: "It starts not with pump-priming, but prudence. Not dashes for growth but discipline. Not free-for-all but responsibility. Not rejection of change but a more flexible welfare state and labour market..."

    Source The Dominion 1 October 1997 "Jobs for all but a set-back for Blair" Reuter
    The French government has made an historic decision introducing the 35-hour week without loss of pay. At a French government-sponsored jobs conference on October 10, Prime Minister Jospin announced a plan to reduce the work week to 35-hours in an effort to create jobs and counter record post-war unemployment.

    The plan for the 35-hour week is due to become legally obligatory in all workplaces of more than 10 employees on 1st January 2000. The government also says that social security tax breaks will be provided to companies that reduce their work week.

  • French employers swiftly have made their opposition to the new measures known. The president of the French Employers Confederation (CNPF) has resigned, saying that his post should be taken over by a "combative" president. French media say that there are risks that the new measures will be used by employers to apply job flexibility and intensify the work routine, in an attempt to claw back the cost to them of the reduction in the working week.

    The French measures however have already had an impact on the labour movement internationally, giving rise to renewed demands for cutting hours in a number of countries, particularly in Italy.

    Sources Reuters, Greg Oxley, Syndicat du Commerce de Paris. Parti Socialiste, Val de Marne. and Gary Johnston, BraveNewWorkWorld website
    The Minister of Employment, Peter McCardle has confirmed to The Jobs Letter that the new Employment Commissioners will not be appointed this year. It will now be early 1998 before the network of up to 19 Regional Commissioners is in place, and the transfer of authority on employment and training initiatives to the regions becomes a reality. The Commissioners will head up the "one-stop" regional employment shops that seek to integrate the different services dealing with job seekers (NZES, CEG and parts of ETSA and Income Support).

  • The official reason for the delay: "sorting through the details of integrating the various services links closely with the structural and management options of the Commissioners and hence their finalisation has to be completed together."

    Has the process been mired in departmental "patch-protection" ? McCardle: "No, not at all. There are many models and options being considered and it's about ensuring the best options are chosen to deliver the outcomes. This involves detailed and thorough consideration because this is a huge reform ..."

  • The Minister has scotched rumours that the process of "shoulder-tapping" has started for the Commissioners,. McCardle: "Any rumours of shoulder-tapping are completely incorrect. The positions will all be advertised widely, and I am adamant that we get the best professionals for the job..."

    What sort of people is McCardle looking for? He says he is not making any judgements as to whether the people will come from within current government bureaucracies, or from outside. The skills needed: good community connections and networks; a thorough knowledge of local labour market and economic conditions; experience in managing substantial budgets; a proven ability to manage staff functions, and to deliver on outcomes. Look for advertisements for the Commissioner positions in the new year.

  • What will happen to the Local Employment Co-ordination Groups (LECs) under the new regime. The Minister told The Jobs Letter that it cannot be assumed that the LECs will automatically be subsumed into the new structure.

    McCardle: "These groups have a part to play in the transition to the new Regional Committees. The rationale for setting up the LECs in the first place was to get a greater level of co-ordination amongst government agencies, and they were proposed by the Employment Taskforce. The responsibilities of the Regional Employment Committees will be much greater... they will have a wider brief in terms of looking at the overall strategic direction of employment-related activities and advising Commissioners on the best use of their devolved resources..."

    Source Interview by Vivian Hutchinson through Liz Reid, spokesperson for Peter McCardle 31 October 1997

    A paper prepared for the Inland Revenue Department shows that increasing levels of taxation adversely effects job growth and raises the unemployment rate. The paper is part of a series commissioned by the IRD to improve its understanding of the effects of the tax system on taxpayers and the economy. "Taxation and Employment in NZ" was written by University of Texas professor Gerald Scully.

    The paper shows some interesting figures: according to Scully, a 1% tax increase has the effect of cutting labour force participation by 0.43% or 11,900 potential workers. He calculates that the loss of these workers translates into a loss of $639.8m in output, and $219m in taxes. The same 1% increase in tax lowers employment growth by 2.6% or over 42,000 workers, and increases the unemployment rate by 8.7% or about 15,900 people.

    Source The Dominion 29 October 1997 "Higher taxes limit jobs paper" by NZPA
    The government is to launch a national survey assessing the contribution to the economy of unpaid work. Over $2m will be spent over the next three years which will look at unpaid work, including childcare, care for the elderly, household work and voluntary community work. The idea for such a survey has long been advocated by economic writers such as Marilyn Waring, whose book Counting for Nothing criticises the `unseen' nature of the economic contribution of women.

    A similar survey has just been completed by Britain's National Statistics Office. The Office found that men and women spend about 1½ times more of their day in unpaid work than paid work, and that women carry out about 1½ times more unpaid work than men.

    The Statistics Office: " Everytime a person digs the garden or goes to the supermarket or does the washing up, this is work, just as surely as agricultural labouring, serving hamburgers or working in a hotel. The difference is that people are not paid for the first three ..."

    The survey found that the "household sector" is bigger than any industry in economic terms. If it were given a monetary value it would be worth up to 120% of the gross national product.

    Source The Dominion 2 October 1997 "Unpaid work study" and The Times 10 October 1997 "Men sleep less, spend more time eating study"
    " We need to dispense with economics and accountancy, or rather restore them to their rightful place in the hierarchy of organised thought which is for us, as it was for Aristotle, below poetry, good conduct, politics and the management of the household ..." -- from " Frozen Desire: An Enquiry into the Meaning of Money" by James Buchan
    (Financial Times)
    Trend. "Behaviour-based Interviews" are the latest job interview technique being used by companies which are unsatisfied with traditional methods. Job seekers are asked to talk in detail about their work experience. "And talk. And talk," says Steven Ginsberg of the Washington Post. "Gone are the days of simple, rote answers and short confirmations of what's on the resume..."

    Ginsberg says that attention in interviews is shifting away from CV's or resumes. Behavior-based interviews try to elicit examples of skills that are pertinent to openings. The candidates are then asked to relate specific situations from their past work experience. The theory is that when people give real examples, the employer learns more about what the candidate is really capable of doing.

    For a job requiring a great deal of leadership, for example, companies will ask candidates to talk about a time when they were required to lead, and explain the results. Aside from providing a telling self-portrait, the tactic can bring up questions or points the interviewer would not have otherwise considered.

    In "111 Dynamite Ways to Ace Your Job Interview," author Richard Fein offers a couple of questions that might be asked in a "behavior-based" interview: "Tell me about a time when you were criticized. What was the issue involved, who made the criticism and how did you handle it?" and "Tell me about a time when you were under enormous pressure. What was the source of the pressure and what did you do?"

    Fein offers advice to a job candidate: "In examples such as these, it is important to not blame the person or situation. Criticism and pressure are inherent parts of the workplace and the company you're interviewing with should understand that. The best answer acknowledges these factors and shows that you learned from the experience..."

  • "A job interview is really a business meeting between two equals."
    -- Richard Fein
    Source The Washington Post September 21, 1997 "Trying to Put Job Candidates at Their Ease " `Behavior-Based' Interviewing Attempts to Get Applicants to Paint Their Own Revealing Self-Portrait, By Steven Ginsberg

    Wellington Nov one-day Conference. "Social Capital and Strong Communities" is to be on Friday 14th November 10-4pm, organised by the Capital City Forum. This conference will explore the concept of social capital and examine the implications for civic groups and voluntary agencies. The seminar is backed by the public questions/social justice offices of the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. It will be chaired by Professor Jonathon Boston, of the Public Policy Department, Victoria University. Costs $5-$15. Enquires to Capital City Forum, P.O.Box 1937, Wellington.
    Source conference brochure
    Auckland Nov one-day conference. "Community Enterprise in the UK and Europe" and "An Introduction to Social Auditing" are the themes of a seminar to be given by internationally renowned economic development worker John Pearce, at the People's Centre, Auckland, Monday 17 November 1997, 9:30-3pm.

    Pearce has been working in the field of Community Enterprise since 1965, in the UK and overseas. He has developed a social auditing methodology for community and co-operative enterprises which has been used widely by local economic development practitioners. This seminar is being run by COMMACT Aotearoa, a local chapter of a Commonwealth-wide NGO working for local action on economic development. Costs $15 (registration essential). Enquiries to Box 423, Auckland or Sue and Bill Bradford 09-302-2496.

    Source seminar brochure
    Auckland Feb 98 four-day Conference. "Social Responsibility: Whose Agenda? Choices for the Future" 12-15 February 1998 at Massey University, Albany. This is billed as a follow-up conference to the popular and controversial "Beyond Poverty" convened by the loose network of Auckland academics, church and community activists at Massey Albany earlier this year. The same group are planning this time to focus on the issues of work, welfare and the role of "civil society".

    They will look at the government's proposed Code of Social Responsibility and related issues of workfare and welfare reform, housing, health, unemployment and poverty in NZ. They expect to provoke a high level of debate from both academic and practitioner perspectives. Costs are on a sliding scale from $20 (unwaged/low income) to $130 (govt depts, private sector). Enquiries: Social Responsibility Conference, P.O.Box 3813, Auckland, or email at

    Look for: A major conference from this same group on "getting Employment back on the agenda"... probably also in Auckland in August next year.

    Source brochure from Social Responsibility Conference, October 1997
    Wellington March 98 Conference. "Beyond Despondency The UBI Alternative to the Welfare Meltdown" in Wellington, late March 1998. This will be the second national conference on the Universal Basic Income (UBI) "an unconditional cash payment to individuals sufficient to meet basic needs."

    The conference will focus on the implementation of a Basic Income for all citizens in New Zealand, and how the UBI concept will encourage economic participation and be socially sustainable. Expect also: debates about the future of welfare in NZ; the coincident rise of over-employment and under-employment; and the merits of targeting versus universality, rights and responsibilities, higher versus lower taxes. Offers of papers and workshops are being sought from community workers, researchers and analysts. Contact: the Conference Organisers, UBINZ, c/- Private Bag 11 042, Palmerston North, fax 06 350 6319, by 15 December 1997.

    Source from UBI National Network

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