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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.75

    24 March, 1998

    On the road to Birmingham
    Seven key principles for "job action plans"

    The finance and employment ministers of the Group of Eight leading industrial countries met in London last month to begin drawing up a major international concensus on how to promote jobs and combat unemployment and social exclusion. It is the first time such an international conference has sought to integrate economic and social policies to tackle unemployment.

    Our Media Watch reports that the communiqué issued at the end of the G8 conference hardly caused a ripple in the world's press. We include a special feature on the G8 jobs conference in this issue of The Jobs Letter. All eyes, however, will be on the G8 world leaders summit in Birmingham in May. It is here that the details of the individual "job action plans" that each country is drawing up will be presented.

    Semantics perhaps . but it is interesting to note the subtle changes in language that the G8 is now using around these jobs conferences. Last June, the British PM Tony Blair and US President Clinton agreed that the G8 would hold a Conference in Britain on "Employment, Jobs and Exclusion". The conference ended up being called "Growth, Employability and Inclusion".

    Source _ No10 Press Office statement, available on internet at; The Telegraph 23 February 1998 "G7 fury as Japan fails to deliver" by Anne Segall; Financial Times 23 February 1998 "G*: Ministers commit to fight unemployment" by Robert Taylor

    The as-yet-un-named super-department, which is to grow out of the merging of Income Support, the New Zealand Employment Service and the Community Employment Group, has decided on its new mission statement:

    " to provide an integrated service to create opportunities for people and communities to achieve and maintain self sufficiency through work, training, income support and community development."

    Integration Transition Team manager Allan Barber says that this mission statement will form the basis upon which to build the corporate identity which is in the process of being tendered out.

    The Integration Transition Team has seven people, and is based in Wellington. It reports to a steering group from the State Services Commission, headed by Michael Wintringham, and includes Labour Department head John Chetwin and Social Welfare's Margaret Bazley.

    Allan Barber has recently been touring offices of the various agencies involved in the integration process, to get a feel for the logistics of the merger. He is determined that, when the new agency is finally up and running, it will be something that's been designed "not by the transition team, but by those who are involved in the business We need buy-in from the people in the organisations concerned"

    Barber is confident that the transition process will be a stable one, and says that up until 30 September nothing will change dramatically. Barber: "After that it will be a gradual process. The doors will open for business in October, and there will be a new name and brand, but to suddenly expect staff to have acquired a whole range of new skills and attributes by then is not realistic"

    Barber sees a major challenge for the new agency in the process of "developing a new culture". He says Income Support, the Employment Service and CEG share a highly professional attitude to the way they operate and the nature of the work they do, but "their differences are nevertheless marked. They are very different in the way they deliver their service, and obviously each has its own culture."

    Barbers aim is to grow an agency that will take the best out of its various parts: "The only way to achieve that is to involve people from the existing organisations in the design of the strategy and the vision and the future deliverables of the new organisation"

    Source _ Transition Times from the Department of Labour Issue 10 March 1998

    What are the staff thinking? The Labour Department has commissioned UMR Insight to research staff reaction to the proposed changes. Six staff focus groups were held in February around the country and UMR Insight say that staff strongly support the one-stop shop concept and accept that there will be "appropriate and reasonable cost savings"

    Many staff expressed reservations about the work-for-the-dole policies, and concerns were also expressed about staff redundancies and the short-term impact on clients during the transition period. Staff said they were hungry for more substantive information, especially about selection for the new agency and its name. And there was cynicism about the ability of the new department to meet its expected start-up date. There were doubts expressed about the ability to mix the different organisational cultures into the new agency, with some Auckland NZES staff especially concerned about being "engulfed" by Income Support.

    Source _ Transition Times from the Department of Labour Issue 11 March 1998

    Seventy representatives of voluntary organisations in the Wellington area have met earlier this month and have unanimously rejected the Code of Social Responsibility. The groups agree that a genuine debate on social responsibility is essential, but feel that the booklet that was distributed to households will not achieve this purpose, especially since it was compiled and distributed without any community consultation.

    Spokesperson Marion Wood says that the agenda for the code was spelt out in last year's Budget. Wood: "It is about targeting beneficiaries and cutting benefits. Our fear is that government will blame individuals _ and beneficiaries in particular _ for their shortcomings, because its economic and social policies have failed to ensure general well-being"

    Source _ Dialogue No.98, March 1998

    Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable says that the Code of Social Responsibility should only apply to beneficiaries. He tells Dialogue, the newsletter of the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations, that beneficiaries were the original focus of the code.

    Kerr: "They are in a different category. It is reasonable to expect people being helped by other members of the community to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible and to not allow their kids to get into an ongoing cycle of dependency"

    Kerr says he is uneasy about the government laying down guidance on social and family issues: "I would much rather that it was coming from welfare and church groups. My sad reflection is if we were to rely on them to perform that role, we would be waiting a long time"

    Source _ Dialogue No.98, March 1998

    The Labour Party has released a resource pack entitled Towards Social Justice, outlining Labour's social policy alternatives to the coalition government's Code of Social Responsibility. It promotes a "citizens charter" which will spell out the level and quality of health and social services the government ought to provide. Helen Clark: "I believe most NZ'ers want to take responsibility for themselves and their families. What they need is the opportunity to do so "
    Source _ The Daily News 19 March 1998 "Labour issues resource pack" by NZPA

    And how will the responses to the Code be counted? Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry says that every answer on every response form, from individuals and groups, will be read and the results analysed and collated. This statement is in response to an outcry from community-groups over reports and rumours that only the "yes" and "no" answers will be counted and that, while all responses from larger groups would be read, only a representative sample of household responses will be analysed.

    Yes, all responses will be read but this to some extent depends on what you mean by "read". The general manager of the Social Policy Agency John Angus says his staff will first analyse a sample of responses to find the most frequently expressed opinions. The rest of the responses will then be scanned for key phrases which matched the words identified in the sample. Finally, the "code" phrases will be counted and the results used in a report to the government by the end of July.

    Source _ New Zealand Herald 14 March 1998 "Code comments may get only quick look" by Andrew Laxon.

    About 40 young unemployed Northlanders are in Hawkes Bay orchards this week under a plan by the Te Parawahu Employment Resource Centre in Whangarei to get people back into the workforce. Spokesman Richard Nathan says that while the apple-pickers are in the region, they will be hosted by Hawkes Bay Maori. He says the scheme will give the group three months' work, but there is potential for up to nine months, spread over the harvest of pears, grapes and kiwifruit.
    Source _ New Zealand Herald 16 March 1998 "Northland jobless find fruit far afield" by Darrel Mager

    Employment issues for older people have been highlighted over the last week with the visit to NZ of Richard Worsley and Patrick Grattan from the UK Third Age Challenge Project. Their visit has been hosted by the Mature Employment Support Association and has featured meetings with government, employers and community groups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

    The Third Age Challenge is a leading national body in the UK promoting a better deal and fairer opportunities for older people to work and use their skills and experience. It was started after the Carnegie UK Trust conducted an inquiry into the "Third Age" _ a shorthand phrase being used to broadly describe people aged between 50 and 74 years.

    The inquiry found that as a result of longer life expectancy and better health care, members of this age group may now expect 20-30 years of active life after finishing full-time work, or rearing a family. "The third age is not a short rest before dependency or death. It is an important and lengthening stage of life which nearly all will experience. With thought and preparation it can be made vastly more rewarding. Millions of third-agers could make an even greater contribution to society and the economy, providing attitudes change and new policies are adapted"

    The Third Age Challenge has been pushing for improved employer policies for older workers, campaigning against age discrimination with recruitment agencies, leading projects on third age volunteering, challenging local bodies on their policies for older people, and promoting life-long learning opportunities.

    For further contact: John Patterson, Mature Employment Support Association, P.O.Box 13720, Christchurch phone 03-366-4527 fax 03-366-6670

    Source _ Notices from Mature Employment Support Association

    Unemployment causes increasing death rates, sickness and mental illness, according to a report in the Medical Journal of Australia which reviews the medical literature on unemployment for the past decade.

    Researchers from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare say that local and international studies show that the mortality rate of unemployed people is higher than those with jobs, in all social classes. This is particularly striking for deaths from cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, accidents and suicide.

    The report says that unemployed men and women aged 25-64 years are found to be twice as likely to say they are in poor or fair health (as opposed to good or excellent health). The jobless also report 30-40% more serious chronic illness and 20-30% more recent health problems.

    Source _ The Daily News 16 February 1998 "Unemployment can be fatal by AAP

    For political economist Edmund Phelps, fostering self-worth and social responsibility rely on the ability to earn a respectable wage. In his book Rewarding Work, Professor Phelps shows that earning a good wage has been increasingly hard for those at the low end of the wage distribution as productivity has come to rely more on knowledge and skills and less on brawn and hard work. Phelps: "For two hundred years, the economic engine of capitalism has enabled people who are willing to work hard and save money to lead a comfortable life. Since the 1970s, however, a gulf has opened between the wages of low-paid workers and those of the middle class"

    Phelps asserts that a crucial task for our economic and political system is to devise methods to help less productive workers draw a reasonable wage, thereby reintegrating them into the economic mainstream. His solution: a graduated schedule of tax subsidies to enterprises for every low-wage worker they employ. As firms hire more of these workers, the labor market will tighten and pay levels would rise. Professor Phelps believes that ultimately his program would be largely self-financing, because its cost would be offset by reductions in the cost of welfare, crime, and medical care - as well as by taxes paid by formerly unemployed workers.

    "Rewarding Work how to restore participation and self-support to free enterprise" by Edmund S. Phelps (pub Harvard University Press 1997)

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