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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.98

    27 April, 1999

    Jan Francis on the work of the Local Employment Committees

    An essential summary of Vicki Wilde's report.

    The NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has released its latest "concensus" forecasts on the NZ economy. These figures are compiled quarterly and present an average of what the main economic forecasters are predicting.

    The forecasts: There will be a 0.4% contraction in employment in the year to March 1999. Employment growth is expected to pick up in the following two years, reaching 2.4% growth in 2000/01. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 6.8% by 2000/01.

    The economists expect a 0.3% contraction of GDP for the year to March 1999, and 3% growth for the year to March 2000, and 3.6% the following year.

    Source New Zealand Herald 29 March 1999 "Rosy outlook lifts GDP, job forecasts" by NZPA

    The number of people asking for food parcels is rising in all centres. In Mangere, the Auckland City Mission gave out 34% more parcels than last year, and most of these people had not sought help previously. Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry estimates 9% of the Wellington's population have received food parcels. A similar figure has been reported by food banks in Dunedin and Huntly.

    Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson says that people using the foodbanks have incomes that only just cover their food, rent and power and do not cover extraordinary expenses like medical and school fees or transportation costs.

  • Salvation Army Major Campbell Roberts questions the reality of an "improvement in the economy" when the Salvation Army is handing out 18% more food parcels in 1998 than it was in 1995. Roberts: "The thing is, its not getting any better for the people at the bottom..."

    Major Roberts calls for the government to enact more active labour market policies which will see "the creation of real jobs and the funding of community work". Roberts: "Active policies are needed to turn the situation around. Telling people they are the problem, then sending them to pretend jobs, is neither creative or helpful..."

    Sources New Zealand Herald 23 April 1999 "Need for food parcels rising" by Deborah Diaz; The Dominion 24 April 1999 "Foodbank use sparks call for new policies"

    Staff shortages. Our Media Watch reports that there is an increasing demand for call centre workers, and the staff shortages are pushing up salary levels. Kathleen Cameron of the recruiting agency Drake International says there are not enough experienced workers to meet demand. The company is targeting university graduates and people with retail, hospitality, finance industry and sales experience to train for call centre positions.

    Karen Hilgsen reports in The Dominion that worker shortages are likely to intensify as international call centres locate in NZ to take advantage of our deregulated telecommunications market, exchange rate, and time zone benefits. Media reports say that NZ boasts the third lowest cost per call centre seat in the world. The average call centre in NZ is about 20 seats, whereas these larger call centres would be running up to 200 seats operating 24hrs/seven days a week.

  • Ms Cameron admits that call centres are notorious for staff burn-out and turn-over a legacy of too many hours answering repetitive calls. But she says that employers are waking up to the fact that after spending hefty amounts in recruiting and training people, they need to do more to retain them. Call workers today can expect higher salaries, flexible rostering, and opportunities for career advancement.

  • Because most advertisements for call centre vacancies ask for people with experience, industry expert Ann Mayer has designed a training programme aimed at unemployed people who know nothing about call centres or the systems that underpin them. She is presently marketing a 70-hr, 21 module course to education and training providers throughout NZ. Her aim is that unemployed people could be given basic training and work experience, and then migrate onto call centre careers. Mayer has several call centres willing to host the unemployed people who want to take the course, and would also consider employing them after they gain some practical experience. Contact Anne Mayer by email at

    Source The Dominion 29 March 1999 "Demand hot for call centre staff" by Laurie Hilsgen; also NZ Infotech Weekly 29 March 1999 "Unemployed could cash in on shortage"

    A new report, Fathering in the New Millennium, says that employers should be encouraged to provide more flexible hours to allow fathers to spend more time with their children. The report, published by the Commissioner for Children is the final stage of a project initiated by the former Commissioner, the late Laurie O'Reilly.

    Author Rae Julian says that there is little encouragement from the majority of employers for men to take time from working hours to be with their children. Julian: "Most who do ask for time off to be with children are likely to be seen as lacking commitment to the job and not worthy of promotion. Given the high unemployment rate in NZ, especially for Maori and unskilled or semi-skilled workers, it is understandable that many men are not prepared to risk losing their jobs in order to spend more time with their children..."

  • Julian writes that more and more egalitarian attitudes to fathering are clearly gaining ground in society. This means most people now expect more equality in all aspects of parenting. Julian: "It is now time for social institutions to support the new concensus by encouraging employers to promote greater flexibility in the workplace so that fathers can spend more time with their children..."

    Source The Dominion 20 April 1999 "Flexible hours urged so fathers get time with kids" by Karen Howard

    The Green Dollar National conference was held earlier this month in Masterton, and attracted about 80 people from 17 local employment trading schemes (LETS). The trading groups have enjoyed significant growth in recent years, and there are now 55 networks from Whangarei to Invercargill.

    The conference guest speaker was local economic researcher Dr Peter North from the United Kingdom. He reports that, in Britain, the government is starting to have a positive attitude towards green dollar networks and is looking towards supporting their development.

    Dr North: "They recognise that when you are unemployed, your social networks degrade because you often don't have the money to go out and meet other people. The government also believes that we need to put much more emphasis on social capital... and LETS schemes are very good at building up local capacities for finding local solutions to problems. Effectively, a large green dollar scheme is like a small bank it requires an office, teamwork, strategic planning and financial management, applying for grants etc. This all goes towards building the social capital in a local area..."

  • The Social Exclusion Unit in the UK Prime Minister's Office is taking an interest in green dollars as part of an overall policy package on jobs. The unit is looking at the role that local currencies can play in regenerating depressed areas, and the need to change benefit regulations to make it fairer for participants.

    Dr North: "The official position in the UK is that LETS are treated on a dollar for dollar by the benefits office when it comes to declaring income. In practice however it is pretty much a case of "don't ask, and we won't tell". Nobody has been really bothered by officials about their LETS income. But the situation does generate fear and insecurity when the rule is one thing but in practice it is another ... and that's not good enough when we are dealing with vulnerable people."

  • In Britain there is also growing interest in LETS schemes by local authorities. Dr North reports that in some areas, such as Greenwich, local authorities are funding LETS development workers to work in depressed housing estates.

    North: "We realised that we were rather optimistic in the early days in terms of our goal of getting lots of low-income people to join the schemes. The low-income people often have great difficulties with debt and debt collectors ... and tend to be suspicious of schemes that are treating debt levels as simply a commitment you are making to a community. So the local authorities have been helping us re-write some of our material and presenting it with their endorsements."

    Source interview with Dr Peter North 16 April 1999 by vivian Hutchinson

    This electorate contains 23,658 households, of which 49% have household incomes below $30,000 per year before tax. That 49% is 11% above the rate for the country as a whole. There are 32,580 adults aged 20-59 in the Napier electorate, of whom 61% are in paid, full-time work. Another 14% are in part-time work. Unemployment in the electorate is just below the national average.
    Localities in the Napier electorate which have high levels of deprivation are: Maraenui, Marewa and Onekawa South.

    ( Electorate statistics compiled by Judy Reinken, and based on 1996 Census).

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

    Maori Employment and Training Commission chairman Rongo Wetere told the Palmerston North Employment Summit that WINZ is not meeting Maori needs. Wetere: "It is a white, monocultural organisation ... and is the antithesis of a commitment by government to close the gap between Maori and Non-Maori."

    His recommendation: there should be a Maori National Commissioner for Employment established at the same level as the current WINZ National Commissioner (Ray Smith). He believes this would show a commitment by government to address the disparities that exist, and be the first step in "listening to Maori".

    Wetere: " A National Maori Commissioner would be responsible to ensure that the interests of Maori are at all times considered, and that the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi are complied with in labour market issues. The government must acknowledge that the "gap" between Maori and Non-Maori is inconsciencible, and for the benefit of all New Zealanders, the issues must be addressed. The policies of "mainstreaming" have not worked and accelerate disparity. Targeted intervention is the only alternative and must commence now ..."

  • The Maori Employment and Training Commission is presently working with Professor Ian Shirley of Massey University in order to develop its proposals to the Maori Affairs Minister on employment policy. The Commission has been pursuing a "pan-party" employment policy which "... at all times considers the interests of Maori on an equal footing with non-Maori."

    The Commission has also recommended to government that a Kaupapa Maori Framework for qualifications be created, together with the establishment of a NZ Council for Kaupapa Maori Standards in employment and training (NZCKM).

    Sources Manawatu Evening Standard 31 March 1999 "Dismay over Maori unemployment" by Lee Mathews; Interim reports to the Minister of Maori Affairs from the Maori Employment and Training Commission November 1998 and February 1999

    The Labour Party has released its party list rankings. Former Community Employment Group general manager Parekura Horomia has been placed at a high ranking (25th) which will virtually guarantee him a parliamentary position after the next election. Horomia is placed higher than seven sitting MP's ... one of only two non-MPs to achieve such a position (the other being former party president Margaret Wilson, placed at No.9). Horomia is also standing as a candidate for the Ikaroa Rawhiti Maori electorate, covering the East Coast to Wairarapa and Manawatu.

    Labour leader Helen Clark told the New Zealand Herald that the Maori members of the party's list committee had promoted Horomia for the high ranking, and she had backed their decision because she knew of his calibre. Clark: "He would have to be one of the star candidates but because he has been in a public service role, he hasn't got the level of public recognition that someone like Margaret Wilson has ..."

    List MP Dover Samuels is tipped to be Labour's choice for Minister of Maori Affairs, although the Alliance will be asking for the position to go to Mana Motuhake leader Sandra Lee in any coalition forged after the elections.

    Source New Zealand Herald 20 April 1999 "New blood, faithful feature on Labour list" by Audrey Young and New Zealand Herald 21 April 1999 "Maori leader Labour star " by Audrey Young

    When you look back over your work-life to date, when have you been really contented and happy?

    Source _ Adapted from Max Eggert's "The Book of Career Questions" Arrow Business Books

    The US Welfare to Work Partnership was started by a number of well-known corporations such as Burger King, Monsanto, United Airlines and UPS to support US government policies in encouraging businesses in hiring welfare recipients. Since the beginning of the Partnership, it has expanded to thousands of companies. Over 70% of them are small- to medium-sized firms.

    The Partnership: " We see "welfare to work" as a smart solution for business. We believe there are many sound reasons to hire former welfare recipients. They are ready, willing and able to work. They have a sense of pride and service that can help increase productivity among all employees. Ultimately, this will improve a company's bottom line. As a community's welfare dependence declines, the local economy improves, since prosperity increases demand for goods and services. Most of all, participation in the Welfare to Work Partnership positions us as companies that care deeply about families and their communities..."


    " Many of the solutions we have been trying, as far as employment is concerned, are based on thinking a new sector in the economy is going to open up or some major business development will happen that will create more jobs and solve unemployment. But, for those of us who have been in the job creation field for some time, we are not seeing this scenario coming up with the results.

    " Perhaps we are having to accept that we are in the middle of a major change a paradigm shift concerning the place of employment in our wider culture. At conferences such as this we need to reach beyond our usual discussions of business development and training ... and create the space to discuss the future of work and income, and debate the goals we are pursuing through our economic management... "
    -- Vivian Hutchinson, The Jobs Letter editor

    " The word `apprenticeship' still has a very worthwhile meaning, whether you call then apprenticeships, trainees, or learners. If they learn how to do a job in carpentry, car-painting, automotive, or anything like that and they get a certificate. That's their first empowering piece of paper to allow them to go anywhere..."

    "We can get many more apprenticeships established through the use of group apprenticeship schemes. It is a lot more flexible. Employers who are loathe to take on apprentices due to economic uncertainty, can still train young people and get help at busy times. About 95% of NZ businesses employ fewer than 15 people. If all these businesses could increase their staff by one person, we would solve the unemployment problem..."
    -- John Fraser, company re-builder and youth apprenticeship advocate

    " The government has lost the plot on unemployment, and in particular, Maori unemployment. Maori unemployment is four times higher than the official 6% rate. And one out of every two Maori males will have a serious conviction by the age of 20 ... These are marks of a people in crisis. Lack of job opportunities, failure to excel at school or tertiary training... these are not just Maori problems, they belong to all of us. "
    -- Rongo Wetere, chairman Maori Employment and Training Commission.

    "This conference, to a degree, has talked about employment growth equaling business growth. The actual person doesn't appear at all. We hear that there have to be more human resource managers to manage people ... but what we don't hear is the call for more jobs that are of good conditions, pay good wages, enabling a person to participate more fully in society."
    -- Robert Reid, UNITE union for unemployed and beneficiaries

    " I believe the most important challenge for all of us is to rebuild our local economies, not only to create jobs but also to reduce New Zealand's dependence on imported goods and foreign capital. Vibrant local economies aren't just a nice idea. They are the foundation stones of a decent society, a self-reliant nation and a sustainable future.

    " The export of New Zealanders' jobs has been the single biggest `achievement' of successive government's free-trade policies. According to a BERL study, every million dollars worth of imports represents 20 lost jobs in New Zealand. On this basis, the increase of consumption goods imports alone over the last four years accounts for 26,000 lost jobs. The combined impact of government policy, business decisions and "consumer choice" on employment can't be easily turned around but grass-roots solutions are where we must to start ..."
    -- Rod Donald, Green Party co-leader and employment spokesman

    " The problem of unemployment is global. Its newer facet is that it afflicts the developed world instead of being endemic only in the developing countries. Because of the importance of international money markets in determining the balance of trade of each country, our consideration of full employment has to be global as well as being tackled specifically in each country, as we are trying to do at this conference ..."
    --Richard Pearce, Wellington writer on industrial and economic issues

    Sources Radio NZ Checkpoint 30 March 1999 Employment Summit interviews by Jill Galloway, Manawatu Evening Standard 31 March 1999 "Dismay over Maori unemployment", "propaganda `false hope' for jobless" and "Training important" by Lee Mathews; "Employment: What can we do? Possibilities and Potential" Background papers for the Employment Summit Palmerston North, 30 March 1999, edited by Ian Ritchie.

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