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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.96

    5 March, 1999

    It's election year, and the government is focussing again on the numbers of beneficiaries and the unemployed. Social Services Minister Roger Sowry predicts that social welfare will become "one of the main battlegrounds of the election year". His priority: dealing with the real causes of "welfare dependency".

    Sowry says that the Labour-Alliance welfare plans will leave NZ families "trapped in cycles of dependency". Sowry: "Their plans to increase benefits and reduce the reciprocal responsibilities of beneficiaries to participate in the workforce or training, is simply sponsoring dependency..."

  • Meanwhile, Treasurer Bill Birch says the government has committed itself to getting unemployment down below 6% something that has not been achieved since 1988. Birch: "There is no way that this government is satisfied with an unemployment rate of 7.7%. It represents too many people out of work ... But we got unemployment down from 11% to 6%, and we will get it down below that..."

    Birch does not put a time frame on reaching the sub-6% goal ... but says that some private sector analysts believe that unemployment will fall below 6% by the end of next year.

    Sources _ The Daily News 10 February 1999 "Sowry says social welfare is election `battleground'; The Dominion 12 February 1999 "Plan to lower jobless rate to below 6pc" by Mathew Brockett

    Where are the WINZ figures? Opposition politicians are starting to put the pressure on WINZ to release its figures on the level of registered unemployed, and its effectiveness with job seekers.

    Rod Donald of the Green Party says that WINZ Minister Peter McCardle wrote to him on Dec 4 saying "it is my aim to have a complete set of ongoing, user-friendly statistical information available for distribution from January 1999..." But there has been no show.

    Donald: "The public deserve to know the true extent of unemployment in this country. Ever since this government took office, it has worsened. The minister has desperately tried to hide the rapidly rising number of people looking for jobs by shifting from monthly to quarterly reporting last March ... and then failing to release any figures since June. McCardle should front up with the figures so we can all see how his government has dealt with the unemployment crisis..."

    Source _ Rod Donald "Confusion, Inaction on the extent of unemployment" press statement to newsroom 2 March 1999

    New Zealand CCS chief executive, Kevin Allan is angry at Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable for his the "incredulous" comments at Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee. Kerr argued that managers should be allowed to legally discriminate on the basis of sex, age and disability.

    Allan: "Why do some members of the business community still equate rights for people with disabilities as doing something nice? When are we going to grow up and look at these issues as about the rights of individuals to contribute personal and professional skills and abilities to the developing economy..."

  • Allan reports that one in five New Zealanders have a disability. In 1996, the most recent statistics available, 40,000 New Zealanders with post school qualifications and a disability were not in jobs.

    Allan: "These people have demonstrated their intelligence and abilities and are being barred from participation in employment. It is the managers who need training, to focus on the merit and competence of a highly skilled, diverse workforce ... Market penetration can be increased by employing staff who better reflect the characteristics of the population and potential consumers. Companies that tolerate discrimination are carrying poor managers the economy cannot afford ..."

    Source _ Newsroom - CCS 11 February 1999 "Removing Barriers Equals High Employment"

    A study of the voluntary welfare agencies in Palmerston North last year shows that their infrastructure is at risk, and the agencies are overwhelmed by the rising level of need in the community and the inadequate levels of available funding. Over fifty agencies took part in the study commissioned by the Poverty Action Group and conducted by two Palmerston North researchers, Ian Ritchie and Cindy Johns.

    Ritchie: "While the voluntary sector has been described by other researchers as "vulnerable", we consider the situation has now developed to the point where the voluntary welfare infrastructure is at risk of collapsing. This situation will continue to deteriorate as long as the structural agenda that is driving these pressures remains unchanged ..."

    Ritchie says that while this is a major issue for the agencies and the sector, it is a much greater issue for the wider community: "The agencies and the sector are not capable of filling the many gaps left by the withdrawal of government services, even if they were adequately funded. This is not just a local issue ... the same issues apply throughout the country, and deserve wider recognition ..."

    The full research report is available at

    Source _ press statement from Ian Ritchie

    The Labour Party agrees that voluntary welfare organisations are struggling and has launched a new policy initiative aimed at creating a better partnership with the agencies. Labour's social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey says he recognises that mistrust, burn-out and high compliance costs are strangling voluntary sector welfare providers at the same time as the government is dumping more and more responsibility on their shoulders.

    Maharey: "This is an unsustainable situation. The voluntary social service sector is a multi-million dollar industry. The government currently directs around $185 million to the sector via contracts and grants but has created an environment of instability and uncertainty.

    "Nearly 90 per cent of CFA-funded organisations have only one year contracts. One in four of these groups spend 30 per cent or more on compliance costs. Other issues include gagging clauses and a lack of consultation. Groups brave enough to stand up and criticise the present regime are then punished by having their funding cut, as happened to three welfare umbrella groups last November..."

    Labour proposes a formal Agreement between the government and voluntary social service organisations. Its aim: to establish broad principles about the role and value of the community sector and clarify social service delivery issues.

    Maharey: "It is vital that this enormously important sector be able to do its work. This means respecting that it is an autonomous partner of the state in the identification of social need, the development of policy and the provision of services. Labour's proposal of an Agreement is intended to create an environment within which the state and the voluntary sector can work together more effectively. Its strength and authority will be derived from having been created and endorsed by the government and the sector through talking with each other. It will be a partnership beneficial to both..."

    Source _ Newsroom 3 March 1999 "Labour initiative to avert voluntary sector crisis" press statement from Steve Maharey

    A new report says that boys and young men in Australia are earning much less than they could when their fathers were young ... and they are more likely to remain poor for years to come.

    Boys and young men are earning an estimated 3050% less from the labour market than their counterparts 20 years ago. Males aged 1519 yrs earn $96 less a week, in real terms, than they did 20 years ago, while men aged 2024 yrs earn $147 less. And young males today have a considerably less chance of finding full-time work.

    The report entitled "Competing with Dad: Changes in the Inter-generational Distribution of Male Labour Market Income" has been written by Professor Bob Gregory, the Head of the Economics and Politics at the Australian National University. Gregory: "The reality approximated by the data in this report explains the oft-heard remark that, on average, young men today cannot expect to be as well off as their fathers, at least in terms of their ability to earn their way from full-time work..."

    Gregory says that in the past a boy might leave school and, in a few years if not immediately be working full-time and earning enough to put down money on a home, marry and form a family of his own. Now ... parents often have their sons at home and support them financially for years. Gregory: "One of the things the paper makes clear is the larger proportion of the cost of a child is when the child is over 16. But we have not turned our attention to such things as to what is the definition of a `child'. Is it now up to 25?"

    Media Watch. The Bulletin from Australia last month (2 Feb) featured a cover story on "The Future of Work" and the edition also includes a feature from the US Newsweek on "Your Next Job". Familiar prediction: The full-time "job" is dead ... but there is still plenty of "work" to do.

    Author Diana Bagnall points out: "The idea that people will "do work" rather than "have a job" still registers only the faintest recognition in Australia ... Yet among those whose business it is to plan for the future, the demise of the job as a one-size-fits-all way of getting work done is more than a pretty theory. It is considered a fait accompli..."

    "The political language around employment remains fixed on the creation of jobs and their implied promise of stability and security. Politically, of course, no government can afford to say that "jobs" are going the way of the dinosaurs..."

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures quoted in The Bulletin show that casual workers alone now account for 26% of all employees in Australia - up from 13% in 1982. Researcher Iain Campbell from RMIT says that all net employment growth in the 1990s in Australia has been in casual jobs. He argues that if casuals were being used solely to meet the demands of short-term irregular work, they would only make up around 2% of the work force.

    Campbell: "Some casual workers do go on to find stable jobs, but many don't. For young people in particular, casual employment is more like a parking lot than a bridge..."

    Source - The Bulletin 2 February 1999 "All Work, No Jobs" by Diana Bagnall

    The Equal Employment Opportunities Trust has just produced a resource booklet highlighting employment issues for low-paid workers. The booklet "Below Average Wages Above Average Employers" focuses on practical ways employers can value and retain part-time, casual and shift workers who are often paid below the average wage.

    The EEO trust says that while employers have been quick to recognise the value in EEO initiatives for their highly skilled and highly paid staff ... they have been less keen to provide the same or equivalent benefits to staff who are less well paid and often working in shift or casualised work.

    EEO Trust: "It is often difficult for employers to provide the flexibility that lower-paid employees are looking for, and the tight profit-margins of many businesses can limit the amount of money employers are able to spend on EEO initiatives. While wage levels are very important to people, it is not the only thing that matters or affects the quality of an employees working life..."

    The booklet is available for $30 from the EEO Trust at phone 09-525-3023 fax 09-525-7076 or email

    Source -- Equal Employment Opportunities Trust

    This electorate contains 23,877 households, of which 54% have household incomes below $30,000 per year before tax. That 54% is 23% above the rate for the country as a whole. There are 35,820 adults aged 20-59 in the East Coast electorate, of whom 51% are in paid, full-time work. Another 12% are in part-time work. Unemployment in the electorate is 14% above the national average.

    Localities in the East Coast electorate which have high levels of deprivation are: Mahia, Nuhaka, Te Karaka, Tokomaru, Ruatoria, East Cape, Cape Runaway, Te Kaha, Taneatua, Tologa Bay, Opotiki, Oponae, Wairoa, Waimana, Gisborne Airport and Kaiti South. The East Coast electorate ranks 3rd among electorates for poverty, following Mangere and Manukau East. (- Electorate statistics compiled by Judy Reinken, and based on 1996 Census).

    Source - Judy Reinken, statistics based on 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings

  • ???
    Career Question: In the world of work, whom do you most admire and would like to model your work-life upon?
    Source - Adapted from Max Eggert's "The Book of Career Questions" Arrow Business Books

    Bruce Jesson, NZ's best known Marxist intellectual, is soon to launch a new book "Only Their Purpose is Mad" (pub. Dunmore Press). In it, Jesson argues that NZ's economy was once dominated by people who made things; it is now dominated by people who finance things. The book is a vigorous indictment of the financial sector, arguing that, although it is competent, the outcome of this competence is detrimental to the interests of NZ'ers.

    Economist Brian Easton remarks: "The book is one of the major analytical studies of Rogernomics and the finance sector. Being doubtful about the finance sector is common today. This book provides facts and analysis that can convert gut reactions into a coherent understanding..."

    Brian Easton also reports in The Listener that Bruce Jesson has terminal cancer.

    Source - The Listener 13 February 1999 "His purpose is clear" by Brian Easton

    Germany will be alive with a series of employment protests and alternative economic summits during May and June to coincide with two separate summits - the European Union Summit (in May) and the annual G8 Summit (in June). Both events are taking place in Cologne.

    Thousands of demonstrators, from all across Europe, are planning to descend on Cologne on May 29. They will be using the occasion of EU Summit to put forward "the People's Demands" for "a better Europe and a better World".

    In internet publicity, the organisers list their call for "a massive creation of new jobs, and a reduction in basic working hours, to be implemented immediately and simultaneously in all European countries." The organisers believe that this can be achieved without any loss of salary, purchasing power or flexibility.

  • Five Marches will set of from Prague, Basle, Hamburg, Berlin and Brussels, crossing Germany to converge on Cologne on Saturday 29 May. The March from Brussels will be an International March, setting out on Tuesday 25 May. Trade union, employment and poverty activists from Spain, Greece, Finland, Holland, Denmark, Poland, France and the United Kingdom have indicated they will be sending marchers.

  • The Alternative Economic Summit will be held in Cologne on 18-20 June 1999. In Germany, social movements and NGOs are preparing several alternative events, among them a demonstration and a human chain similar to that held last year at the Birnmingham G8. The alternative summit will focus on three main issues - the future of labour, migration, and a different world economic order, in particular the finance system. It will be held with simultaneous translations in English, French and German.

  • Irish super-group U2 is planning a huge benefit concert at Cologne to highlight the plight of Third World countries struggling with debts. Lead singer Bono has already asked Madonna, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and REM to take part in the concert which will be broadcast live around the world. Bono hopes for a wave of support in the call for the G8 to relieve impoverished nations of their huge debts to the World Bank, allowing them to devote their resources to development.
    Source -TOES internet conference, press releases from alternative conference organisers; New Zealand Herald 18 February 1999 "U2 behind charity gig" Further information: EuroMarch Liaison Committee email: (Andy Robertson) or (Glenn Voris); for further information on the economic summit contact: e-mail:

    The Palmerston North Employment Summit is scheduled for March 30 at the Palmerston North City Council Chambers. It is a Local Employment Committee project supported by the LEC national unit, the Community Employment Group, WINZ and the P.N. City Council.

    Keynote speakers include John Fraser, of the Methodist Employment Generation Fund and former Company Rebuilder; Sean Bevan, economic advisor to the Napier City Council; Rongo Wetere, of the Maori Employment Commission; and Peter Taylor of the Christchurch-based Just Dollars.

    For further information contact Dennis Morgan 06-356-8199, or Ian Ritchie at 06-350-6301

    Source - Summit brochures from Ian Ritchie

    The 1999 National Green Dollar Conference is being held 9-11 April in Masterton. Keynote speaker will be Dr Peter North, a research fellow with the Local Economy Policy Unit at London's South Bank University, and a trustee of Letslink UK, a local currency development agency.

    Dr North supports the development of local employment trading systems (LETS) as a social movement which has much to say about the way money, work and community operate in a conventional society. According to North, LETS systems are now taken seriously as a 'social', 'anti-poverty' or 'community economic development' strategy which complements mainstream local or central government schemes. But LETS is still "located within a trickle-down paradigm" in which the main thrust is getting the unemployed into work. For North, the key challenge for LETS systems is to get mainstream businesses involved as a way of generating employment.

  • Also speaking at the national conference will be former MP Sonia Davies, and Alan Fricker of the Sustainable Futures Trust. For further information contact Trish Walker at 06-378-8622 or email
    Source - brochures from National Green Dollar Conference

    Local currency systems are flourishing worldwide, according to Bernard Lietaer, a former Belgian central banker who is now setting up a research clearinghouse for community currencies at the University of California in Berkeley. He estimates there are about 2,000 local currency systems in operation around the world ... with many new examples sprouting up throughout the US, which has been following the pioneering work done in Canada, Australia, and NZ.

    Lietaer says that local currencies also emerged in the US following the Great Depression when jobs and money were scarce. But today, the motivation behind local currencies goes beyond community development ... they are increasingly being seen as a counterpoint to the globalisation of the financial system.

    While LETS systems may appeal to many as a return to the bartering of simpler times, it is clear that the new systems wouldn't exist without new technology, such as the availability of personal computing. Software to operate LETS systems can readily be downloaded from the internet ... and one of the founders of LETS in Canada, Michael Linton, is presently working on a smart card that will allow people to make purchases with local or even regional currencies.

    Source - Nando Times 27 February 1999 "Returning to a barter system" by Paul van Slambrouk

    Three Quaker women in Wellington are presenting workshops on "Values and Visions" in the workplace. Their challenge: people in the workforce need to get back in touch with what really motivates them. Georgeanne Lamont, Anne Wicks and Rachel Lawrence say that the present global turbulence is an opportunity for people to re-evaluate their lives and draw on more of their personal and creative qualities in their workplace.

    Lamont: "Forty percent of workers are burnt out, according to a recent survey, and most of us only use a part of who we are in the workplace ... There's so much unhappiness at work that doesn't need to be there - misunderstandings, resentment, discouraging feedback, feeling undervalued. We need to create a work culture where everyone feels valued, for the best workplace available ..."

    For more information on "Values and Visions" workshops, contact Anne Wicks at 04-527-9380.

    Source - City Voice 4 February 1999 "Fulfilling workplace potential" by Margaret Burling

    Voice: "Creating more jobs is not going to solve our deeper problems with work. We must pay more attention to the kind and quality of work at which we spend our days, our weeks, and our lives. It's not just about jobs, or even well-paying jobs. It's about meaningful work.

    "No one in the political arena, on the left or on the right, seems to notice what our jobs are doing to us. Everyone declares that creating more new jobs is our most important goal. Left unspoken are the physical and mental suffering, the powerlessness and meaninglessness, that will be endemic to so many of these "new", often low-paying jobs ...

    "Economists, politicians, union leaders, employers, activists, the media-everyone needs to help create a new vision of how we earn our livelihoods. We need work that is good for body, mind, and spirit; work that sustains family and community; work that connects us with and helps us protect the natural world...

    "This calling of "good work" also involves mentoring young people to seek vocations rather than settling for jobs. Raising children, nurturing families, and volunteering in your community are vocations in their own right, deserving at least as much respect and support as wage employment ..."
    -- Andrew Kimbrell, from Utne Reader Jan/Feb 1999 "Breaking the Job Lock" available also at

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