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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.109

    11 October, 1999

    Lester Thurow on Skills and Careers

    Winz reports that the numbers of registered unemployed rose 9.4% in the first nine months of new department's operations. There were 213,760 people registered as jobless with Winz at the end of June, up 18,356 people from October 1st last year.

    The number of long-term unemployed (over six months) has been one of the key objectives that the government has set for Winz. This figure has risen 8% or 9,100 more people in the nine-month period.

    In this time, Winz has also found unsubsidised work for 11,233 people… or about 5% of their unemployed "customers".

    • At the end of June, there were 9,278 people engaged in Community Work. This represents 4.3% of the overall number of people on the Winz register. A total of 25,882 people, or about 12% of the unemployed, have participated in the Community Work programme in the nine-month period.

    • Also at the end of June, there were 10,057 people engaged on subsidised work (Task Force Green, Enterprise Allowance, Job Connection and Job Plus) ... or 4.7% of the register. Over the nine months, Winz found subsidised work for 14,230 people ... or about 6.6% of the register.

    Source — Quarterly customer profile (June Quarter 1999) Work and Income NZ

    Minister, Peter McCardle, has circulated tributes around the press, saying Winz has made solid progress in reaching the targets it was given.

    McCardle: "Thousands of unemployed people have taken part in Community Work projects, despite the attempt by the Labour Party to drum up a boycott. There has effectively been no boycott. Close to 5,000 organisations are taking part, and our target in terms of people taking part has been reached. Early figures suggest around 30% of participants are moving into paid employment as a result, but those figures are provisional ..."

    McCardle reports that most Winz offices are now integrated, and the majority of staff have done their training and are now multi-skilled in both benefit management and employment support. He concludes: "There have undoubtedly been mistakes over the first year in some areas, but I am convinced Winz is on the right track and fast achieving its big picture goals, especially in employment."

    Source — press release from Peter McCardle "Winz first anniversary"

    Meanwhile, Winz boss Christine Rankin has sent an internal memo to her staff criticising the recent North& South feature article by David McLoughlin as a vicious personal attack (see the last Jobs Letter).

    In the two-page memo, Rankin says the media has no right to intrude into her private life. Rankin: "I am not elected by the people of New Zealand by popular vote, and my life is not an open book for judgement by people who have never met me..." She says McLoughlin takes "delight in repeating the worst of the personal abuse in other media ... This is vicious and absolutely unacceptable."

    Rankin had refused what McLoughlin said were "repeated requests" for an interview, saying that she had "nothing further to add to the interviews I had already done..." She denies the allegation that Winz has erected a "fortress of silence" around itself since July, saying that she has given a "significant number" of interviews and answered a large number of official information applications.

    Source — New Zealand Herald 23 September 1999 "Rankin tackles magazine for `vicious' attack" by NZPA

    Another pre-election "wake-up" call has come with the release of a study on the living conditions of the poorest New Zealanders. The study was done by the social policy research unit of the Anglican Family Centre in Lower Hutt. It interviewed 400 randomly-selected low-income households in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Hastings Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.

    The survey tried to identify the main sources of financial drain on these poor households. The main culprit: the costs of housing. It found that a quarter of these households pay 50% or more of their net income on rent or mortgage. Almost 45% pay more than 40% of their income, and 73% pay more than 30% on housing costs.

    The Anglican Centre says that the general rule of thumb is that no more than 30% of the household income should be committed to rent or the mortgage. (The study also found that housing for these poorest NZ'ers is now fairly evenly spread between Housing NZ and private rentals).

    • Other findings from the survey:
    — 64% of these households were in debt
    — 36% had debts of $1,000 or more, and 20% had debts of $2,500 or more
    — 49% had been unable to provide a meal for their families at least once in the previous three months, because they could not afford it. 28% had not been able to provide four or more meals in the same time period
    — 47% had at least one member of their household who suffered from a chronic illness
    — 56% had household members who did not visit the doctor when they needed to because they could not afford it
    — 56% had members who could not afford to pay for medicine or a prescription at least once in the previous year
    — 40% were living in over-crowded houses
    — 42% received support from their families
    — 24% used foodbanks and other community support.
    • The Rev Charles Waldegrave, one of the authors of the report, says that the findings raise "serious questions about the effectiveness of social policy outputs in New Zealand." He also says that stereotypes of low-income householders as proflicate drinkers, smokers and gamblers were not supported in the survey.

    • The polling company ACNielsen was contracted to select the population sample and help administer the questionnaire. Households participating in the survey had to fall below the poverty line set five years ago by the New Zealand Poverty Measurement Project. Households had to have no more than 60% of the average disposable income, depending on household type and number of adults and children.

    A household of one adult and one child was considered under the poverty line if the disposable income, after housing costs, was no more than $17,000 a year. A household of two adults and two children would be under this poverty line if their disposable income was no more than $26,000. The Poverty Measurement Project has estimated that 18-20% of NZ'ers are living below this line.

    Source — The New Zealand Herald 24 September, 1999, "Poor famiies hit hardest by rent and mortgages, survey reveals" by Audrey Young, The Dominion 24/9/99, "Survey details hardship due to high housing costs", Alan Samson

    A report for the Manukau Employment Consortium has found that youth unemployment is costing South Auckland more than $223m a year.

    The report, entitled The Costs of Youth Unemployment in Manukau, was produced late last year by the accountancy firm Ernst and Young ... but has only just been released to the public. It calculates that the direct and indirect costs of each unemployed person under 25 years of age in the region amount to $58,760.

    • The Employment Consortium is a collection of government and community agencies in Manukau which was formed in 1997 to tackle youth unemployment in the region. They commissioned the Ernst and Young report in order to highlight the extent of the problem in South Auckland. The consortium has also piloted a mentor scheme aimed at the one quarter of the region's youth who leave school without a qualification. The scheme is designed to help give students the message that education is the key to a job.

    • Young NZ'ers, particularly school-leavers, have the highest rate of unemployment compared to other age groups. The unemployment rate for people under 25 years was 14.7% at the end of June 1999, more than twice the national average.

    The Manukau region has one of the youngest populations in the country, with 35% of the population under the age of 20 years. Stella Ford of Skill NZ, and a consortium member, remarks: "The youth population here is going to grow ... so youth unemployment is going to become more of an issue in the future ..."

    Source — New Zealand Herald 22 September 1999 "Jobless young huge drain on Manukau" by Paul Yandall

    Leah McBey, Dunedin City Councillor and community economics activist, has just returned from a five-week study tour of alternative currencies in Europe and the US. She reports a surge of interest in complementary currencies in the Northern Hemisphere (see also Hazel Henderson interview, last issue).

    Her research centred in on four types of alternative currency: corporate scrip and associated e-currencies; a new commodity-backed global currency called TERRA, which will be launched within 5 years; market-based currencies such as green dollars, Barataria and Ithaca Hours; and non-market currencies such as Time Dollars.

    Time Dollars in the US is a simple, tax exempt currency which promotes itself as rebuilding "social capital". The Time Dollar schemes have been running for 13 years now, and it can be used in health insurance payments, payments for the Youth Court, peer tutoring, local authority housing rentals and employment agencies.

    McBey reports that there was not yet much evidence of these schemes directly influencing job creation in the marketplace: "But I saw abundant evidence that complementary currencies are powerful tools in rebuilding neighbourhoods, reclaiming citizenship and redressing the multiple problems individuals experience when socially excluded..."

    McBey believes that now is the right time to be presenting models for the new economy which include complementary currencies. Her recent booklet, entitled Leah McBey's Town Plan for Dunedin: An Economic Anti-Depressant includes many examples of the use of different currencies. It is available from Otakou Community Enterprises, c/- Colin White, RD2 Otakou, Dunedin, or contact Leah McBey at the Dunedin YWCA

    Source — Interview with Leah McBey by vivian Hutchinson 8 October 1999

    Taranaki long-distance runner Siegfried Bauer is halfway through his 454km "right to work"run from Wanganui to Auckland. Siggy, who is an internationally renowned athlete, has come out of retirement to make this run and ensure that job creation becomes an election issue.

    He says his journey will highlight the 200,000 people who are jobless in New Zealand: If you stood these people in a line with two metres separating each of them, then this line of jobless would reach from Wanganui to Auckland. Bauer: "It's not just unemployment I want to highlight. It's the fact that a lot of the jobless figures are hidden and manipulated by the government. People working in very small part-time jobs, work schemes and in training don't show up in the unemployment figures..."

    Bauer will reach Auckland on October 16th.

    Source — press release from Siegfried Bauer

    A new resource for schools entitled "The Changing World of Work" has been produced by Lesley Taylor of the careers consultancy Workshape. It is a NZ-based resource which aims to give students a straightforward and accurate overview of what's happening to jobs.

    The booklet is 30 pages long — full of charts and illustrations — and aimed primarily at secondary school students for use in social studies and careers guidance. It contains a historial look at work in NZ and in other countries, changes in gender roles around work, the kinds of jobs available in the three main employment sectors, and the impact of technology and globalisation on work today. Lesley Taylor: "This book encourages students to think about the values we place in our work, and investigates alternatives to the way in which paid work is now carried out. Many of the activities have been designed to help students think creatively and entrepreneurially about new possibilities and the skills they will need in the future..."

    Sample or bulk copies can be obtained from New House Publishers, P.O.Box 33-376, Takapuna, Auckland, or visit their website

    • Lesley Taylor is also the editor of Labour Market News, a subscription-based monthly letter which, in each issue, discusses jobs and labour market trends in a particular sector. For more information contact Workshape 07-543-1360 email

    Source — "The Changing World of Work" booklet, and publicity material from Lesley Taylor

    This electorate contains 22,194 households, of which 56% have household incomes below $30,000 per year before tax.. This is 27% above the rate for the country as a whole. There are 28,605 adults aged 20-59 in the Coromandel electorate, of whom 56% are in paid, full-time work. Another 13% are in part-time work. Unemployment in the electorate is 6% above the national average. Localities in the Coromandel electorate which have high levels of deprivation are: Te Puru-Thornton Bay and Waihi. (— Electorate statistics compiled by Judy Reinken, and based on 1996 Census).
    Source — Judy Reinken, statistics based on 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings

    Few people now doubt that there are limits to what the land can sustainably produce in the face of modern industrial farming methods. Critics of industrial farming methods say that the methods may boost profitability in the short-term … but they come at the expense of longer-term damage. A new Joseph Roundtree Foundation report from Britain shows that what is true for the environment may also be true for people.

    The report finds "ominous" long-term problems associated with increasing the working hours of British workers (see The Jobs Letter No.107). It says that a system that relies on people working long hours "…may be on the road to ruin if the result is de-motivation, stress, ill-health, and strain on families."

    The report concludes that intensifying work may increase efficiency in the short-term, but has worrying implications for Britain's long-term growth rates and the health of its "social environment". It recommends the development of family-friendly working patterns and stronger trade unions. Roundtree: "In 20 years' time, society may look back on the obsession with increasing the yield from labour with the same degree of incomprehension as the torching of the Amazon rainforest…"

    Source — Larry Elliot of The Guardian quoted in The Week 28 August 1999

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