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    on Coalition Government Employment Strategies
    from the Job letter No. 68/ 3 November 1997

    The Employment Implementation Steering Group has reported back on the recent public submissions about the coalition government's new employment strategies.

    The Group (chaired by Alf Kirk) canvassed specific responses to the proposed government policies, and how they will be implemented at a local level. They received over 200 submissions from individuals and organisations around the country.

    In this special feature, The Jobs Letter gives an essential summary of the Employment Implementation Group's analysis of the submissions, and also feature some of the comments made in the consultation process.

    The consultation process was based around a series of specific questions relating to regional delivery of employment and training services, proposals for community work and training, and also the concept of a community wage replacing the dole.

    "If the economic environment is hostile to employment growth, then the justification of workfare to keep unemployed `work-ready' is compromised. Current policies contribute to an environment where employment is an implicit instrument of economic management and the quality of employment deteriorates."

    -- NZ Council of Trade Unions

    The Group's report states that a number of submissions, mainly from voluntary groups, unemployed workers' groups and unions, set their comments about the government's strategy in a wider context of how the government is addressing unemployment itself. They argued that unemployment is structural and should be recognised in macro-economic policy. Most of these respondents favoured implementing policies designed to create more jobs alongside, or in place of, the `workfare' policies.

    Agreement on the objectives of regional delivery was high. Respondents generally agreed with the objectives set out in the Local Government NZ submission (see Objectives of Regional Delivery of Employment Services). Most groups supported the view that regional delivery should focus on appropriateness and responsiveness to regional differences while ensuring consistency in delivery and regulations across the country.

    Opinion was divided on how this should be determined and the report found no clear pattern from different sector groups. A third of the submissions favoured regions based on population numbers, particularly the number of unemployed in the region, and natural geographic boundaries. A quarter of the submissions put most emphasis on `community of interest' as the basis for regions. Other common proposals were to base the regions on current local body boundaries, or adopting current government agency boundaries such as those used by NZES or ETSA.

    Almost all submissions agreed that funds should be allocated to regions on the basis of need. And a number of respondents also argued that the region's capacity to generate "real jobs" should be taken into account. Almost two-thirds of the submissions were in favour of distributing funds on a population basis, weighted by the number of unemployed in the region. Several submissions argued for a distinction between the way in which funds were allocated for training and for community work.

    "We believe that macro-economic policy is primarily responsible for unemployment. Unemployment, along with casual, insecure and poor quality employment, is inevitable in a free market where state assets continue to be privatised; ..."
    -- Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (Inc)

    The great majority of submissions thought that national functions should be delivered by all regions in the same way, particularly in setting standards, accountability and ensuring the consistency of outcomes.

    Suggestions on the role of these committees were varied and often non-specific. A third of the submissions suggested the committees have a liaison, co-ordination and advisory role. A fifth saw them in a strategic planning role with varying degrees of hands-on responsibility.

    Most submissions favoured a wide representation on the Committees, including representatives of business and industry, community and voluntary organisations, Maori and Pacific Islanders, schools, Private Training Providers, local authorities, government departments, and unions.

    A majority of submissions favoured an inclusive approach to community work, rather than narrowly defining the group of unemployed being able to take up this option. The same applied to questions on who should be available for training. Many education and training providers and voluntary groups favoured the opening up of current eligibility criteria for training.

    "Blanket, low-cost per participant, compulsory schemes have little value to the government or the participant. They have negative impacts on a variety of stakeholders including community groups, the clients and staff of community groups, the government and the unemployed ..."
    -- Downtown Community Ministry

    The submissions were evenly divided over whether or not community work and training should be mandatory. Generally in favour of the mandatory policy were most local authorities, Local Employment Co-ordination Committees, employer and industry groups. Unemployed worker's groups, voluntary organisations and groups representing people with disabilities were generally in favour of voluntary options.

    The submissions overwhelmingly agreed that community work should be just that work that benefits the community.

    About a third of the submissions did not or could not answer this question, and simply agreed that displacement should not happen. Those who did make suggestions favoured monitoring projects and/or employers, having the Regional Committees set criteria, manage selection and approve projects, and also keeping the work in the non-profit sector.

    "We are concerned that workfare will undermine genuine volunteer work and create barriers for volunteering"
    -- Dunedin Volunteer Centre Trust

    The submissions expressed overwhelming support for setting the community wage at a level higher than a comparable benefit. They mentioned the need for an incentive or inducement to participate as a reason for setting the higher level, and also the additional costs associated with the work or training involved.

    Opinion was strongly in favour of treating the community wage as a wage, ie. payment for work and training undertaken, rather than as a `benefit'.

    see also Objectives of Regional Delivery
    see also Voices

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