Jobs Research Trust trustee DAVE OWENS sketches the view from Dili on the state of the employment and job creation challenges facing the East Timorese.
Letters From Timor Our special website supporting Dave Owen’s volunteer initiatives in East Timor.
THE MOVING UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS
An economist at the Employers and Manufacturers Association is cautious about
celebrating our lowest unemployment rate in 12 years. Linda Wannan-Edgar warns that the
unemployment figures are too easily upset by people moving in and out of the official "workforce".
In an article in New Zealand Herald,
Wannan-Edgar points out that the latest official
tally of employment figures (see The Jobs
Letter No.139) shows some apparent contradictions.
Her examples: Wellington has more jobs, but its unemployment is up. Northland's
working-age population declined but its unemployment rate is static and high. Auckland attracted more
than 19,000 potential extra workers, but only 5000 new jobs. The total area north of Taupo
experienced no job growth, and national unemployment went down by only 11,000.
So what's happening? Official unemployment rates are based on a percentage of
the workforce (which is 1.9 million people), and not the working-age population (which is 2.9
million). The official "jobless" (discouraged, or available for work but not actually seeking it)
total only about 100,000 people. This leaves another 900,000 people "not in the labour force".
They are not all in early retirement, sick, on ACC or caring for others ... and when they move in
and out of the workforce, they have a significant impact on the jobs figures.
Wannan-Edgar describes a "Dick Whittington phenomenon" where people move out
of regions like Northland and the Bay of Plenty and into Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and
Canterbury, where the work is. She writes: "In Wellington at least, people re-entered the
workforce maybe expecting the new Government to create jobs. It did not oblige. So Wellington's "not
in the labour force" numbers fell while its "labour force" increased by more than the new jobs.
The result? Unemployment worsened."
Wannan-Edgar compares this situation to what happened when Waihi Gold reopened
its mine 20 years ago, but unemployment in Waihi increased, because the inflow of hopeful
workers exceeded the number of new jobs. She believes that much of last year's change in
regional unemployment can be explained by such workforce changes, and not by job creation or loss.
MAKE INDIVIDUAL TRAINING EXPENSES TAX-DEDUCTIBLE
Wannan-Edgar argues that the lack of skills amongst jobless people is the key factor
in addressing unemployment, and we must correct disincentives to work and train. Her view is
that a tertiary student should be able to capitalise on their student fees, creating an asset which can
be written off against future income.
Wannan-Edgar: "If skills are seen as nationally important, then we should make individual
training expenses tax-deductible. Businesses can and do capitalise development salaries and
other expenses and, just like a truck or a building, depreciate the asset over its life. Why cannot
individuals? Politicians rankle with talk of "human capital' without the same financial incentives
as other investments..."
Source New Zealand Herald 20 February 2001 "Dialogue: Time to make training pay" by Linda Wannan-Edgar.
MAYORS SIGN AGREEMENT WITH CEG
The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs has signed a formal agreement with the Community
Employment Group (of the Department of Labour) to work together on common objectives.
The "Principles of Partnership" will see local CEG field officers working more directly with
Mayors participating in the Taskforce.
The agreement follows on from the "Memorandum of Understanding" signed between the
government and the Mayors Taskforce in September last year. Under the latest agreement, the
CEG support to the Mayors Taskforce will be become one of its "national strategies".
The participating Mayors will "champion" local projects and activities which strengthen
local employment and community economic development opportunities. The CEG field officers
will be providing advisory, planning and liaison support directly to the Mayors and their local
TASKFORCE TO MEET IN AUCKLAND
The Mayors Taskforce will hold its first Auckland meeting later this month. A core
group of the Mayors will be meeting in Manukau City to finalise their strategic direction, and to
share plans on how the Taskforce goals will "hit the ground" at a local level. They will also take
time to meet with Auckland Mayors at this stage, only Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey is a
formal member of the Taskforce.
The meeting will conclude with a "best practice" and networking day amongst Mayors and
their invited colleagues. Speakers on this day will include Professor Ian Shirley (Institute of
Public Policy AUT), Sandi Morrison (Local Employment Co-ordination), Ngapo Wehi (Pounamu
Training), Warren Snow (Zero Waste Trust) and Geoff Chapple (Te Araroa Trust). Ministers
Steve Maharey and Jim Anderton will also be attending the meeting.
For ongoing news on the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, visit the website
CHRISTCHURCH TARGET 2001
Christchurch leaders have launched an employment initiative aiming to create more
than 2001 jobs in the coming year. Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore, the Christchurch City
Council, the Canterbury Development Corporation, community organisations and employers are
pledging to work together on the "Target 2001" initiative which aims to create jobs through
business networking and on-the-job training.
Canterbury is looking buoyant at the moment with a quarter of local employers
expecting to take on more staff in the next six months, according to the latest confidence survey from
the Employer's Chamber of Commerce. The region also expects a boost from the recent decision
by Environment Canterbury to go ahead with a massive irrigation project that farmers say will
create up to a thousand jobs and add more than $100 million a year to the region's economy.
Source Christchurch Press 26 February 2001 "Groups launch combined approach for jobs in Canterbury" by Andrew Moffat
PORIRUA ONE MORE WORKER
Porirua Mayor Jenny Brash has launched the "One More Worker" campaign to
encourage and assist local businesses to employ extra staff. Brash first heard of the campaign at a
Mayors Taskforce for Jobs meeting, and took the concept to the Porirua Business Development
Society (PBDS) and Winz. The campaign has been running successfully in Horowhenua and Taranaki.
The average Porirua business currently employs six people, and the campaign organisers
recognise that taking on one further employee is a "big ask". Winz advisor Denis de Reus says
the campaign offers no new services, but brings a range of existing assistance (from Winz
and PBDS) together under one umbrella. This help includes wage subsidies, help with
business planning, marketing, training and help with preparation of tenders.
Source mytown.co.nz 1 March 2001 "Campaign launched to assist businesses to employ extra staff" by Jim Chipp
BRADFORD GAINS BANKING PLEDGE
The Green Party support for Jim Anderton's "People's Bank" has seen the proposal
gain enough parliamentary support to ensure a go-ahead from Cabinet. Green MP Sue Bradford
says that an important component in the negotiations was an agreement to explore setting up
community-owned local banks on a "Bendigo" model (see
The Jobs Letter No.139).
Bradford: " In our discussions with NZ Post and the government, it has become clear that
NZ Post is open to going into partnership with communities to set up genuine community
owned local banks, and are in fact willing to meet immediately with sector representatives to make
sure this goal is built into their plans. After years of unsuccessfully trying to find an appropriate
"hub" bank to provide the infrastructure for community banking in this country, this is good
news indeed, and for this reason I do genuinely welcome and support the NZ Post initiative..."
Source Sue Bradford speech to Parliament Thursday 15 February 2001
MAHAREY KEEN TO BACK `SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS"
Social Services Minister Steve Maharey is keen to introduce funding for "social
entrepreneurs" into the next government Budget. If his Budget bid is successful, Maharey predicts
we will hear much more of the term "social entrepreneurs", and we will "... see people popping
up all over the country who will be identified as the real shakers and movers in the social area
... given the financial backing."
Maharey: "It's not an idea we haven't seen in this country at all, but it's not been a
conscious policy. You literally go to communities, find out who the people are making a difference and
say: Now, what would you like to do? What barriers could we remove by giving you extra money?"
Maharey described the Supergrans group, which works largely with young mothers
in Christchurch, as a good example of social entrepreneurs: "They're constantly cash-strapped
but the results are huge. Everybody they touch seems to have a magical transformation in their
lives. With more financial backing they could be doing more good."
Source The Dominion 8 March 2001 "Minister keen to back `social entrepreneurs"
WILL RANKIN BE RE-APPOINTED ?
Media Watch. There has been intense speculation in the media over the last month as
to whether Winz chief executive Christine Rankin will be re-appointed when her three-year
term expires in July. Vernon Small of New Zealand
Herald quotes "sources close to the
department" as saying that Cabinet was determined not to reappoint her, and that State services
Commissioner Michael Wintringham has told Rankin that she would not get a second term in the
$250,000-a-year job. Small also reports that Rankin has sought legal advice to challenge the decision.
Small: "The government has lowered a cone of silence over her future, refusing even to
comment on what stage the process is at. It is likely they are putting as much distance as possible
between themselves and a decision on her future to avoid allegations of improper political interference
or to give her ammunition for a court case."
Earlier last month, Christine Rankin told the Sunday Star-Times: "I love this job. Yes,
I very much want to continue." She also told Guyon Espiner that she had toned down her
flamboyant style and introduced a more austere regime at Winz to suit the Labour-Alliance
coalition, which had campaigned on frugality in the public sector.
Rankin: "I think I'm a lot more conservative now. My personal presentation is more
conservative and . . . I'm cautious about everything I do in the organisation. I don't do some of the things I
did before, not because I necessarily think it was wrong, but if that's the expectation that I have
a quieter way of going about my job then that's exactly what I'll do."
The Sunday Star-Times article is the source of a more recent controversy between
Christine Rankin and Green MP Sue Bradford (see
Voices, this issue). Bradford criticised Rankin
for putting "style above substance" in her management, and for representing the idea that "...
if beneficiaries would only dress nicely and get their act together then their problems would
dissipate into the freshly perfumed air."
The full Sunday Star-Times article, "The Rankin File", is available on the internet at
Sources Sunday Star-Times 11 February 2001 "Rankin to fight for Winz job" and "The Rankin File" by Guyon Espiner;
The Dominion 12 February 2001 "Rankin keen to continue as head of Winz"; New Zealand Herald 10 March 2001 "Rankin to
fight for Winz job" by Vernon Small; New Zealand Herald 15 March 2001 "Service head apologises over Rankin legal threat"
by Vernon Small
VOICES : ON CHRISTINE RANKIN AND SUE BRADFORD
" [Ms Rankin] typifies that psychology that it's all in the appearance, it's all in the look. I
just hate the psychology in Welfare and Labour departments that if you present well ... if you've
got the high heels and earrings or the suit and tie or the makeup and everything looks nice that
you'll be fit for the job.
"That whole [airline charter] incident really epitomised what had happened to Winz under
the previous Government and under Rankin's leadership. I think she was someone promoted
far beyond her capacity to lead a department of that size and complexity."
Sue Bradford, veteran employment activist and Green MP, commenting on Winz
Boss Christine Rankin in the Sunday Star-Times, 11 February 2001
" She considers that in making these statements, you have caused harm to her reputation. As
to whether or not our client takes any further steps will depend very much upon the response
given to this letter. In that regard our client reserves all her rights, including the taking of further
steps should she perceive that to be necessary."
Christine Rankin's lawyer Michael Quigg, in a letter to Sue Bradford MP, later tabled
by Bradford in Parliament
" I don't believe that senior public servants in a very political position like hers should
really have the ability or the right to silence or bully MPs into submission through the threat of
" I'm not making any retraction or apology at this time ... I actually believe that many
more detailed criticisms have been made of Mrs Rankin over the last few years and I find it odd
that she should target me of all people."
Sue Bradford, responding to the legal threat
"Generally, public servants have the same rights of access to their political representatives
as other members of the public. However given the requirement for public servants to
remain politically neutral in their work, such communications should be approached with special
employees occupying senior positions or working closely with Ministers should
exercise particular care with such communications."
Public Service Code of Conduct, published by the State Services Commission
" I am disappointed I was not briefed by Work and Income Chief Executive Christine Rankin
in relation to potential defamation proceedings in her personal and private capacity against
Green Social Services spokesperson Sue Bradford. It is an accepted convention that senior
public servants would normally inform their Ministers if such an action was being contemplated."
Steve Maharey, Minister of Social Services and Employment
" What I would have done was to say [to Ms Rankin] `look, think very carefully about this,
my strong advice is don't do it'.
" I have had this discussion from time to time with one or two other chief executives who
have been subject to a level of public vituperation that I personally find unacceptable in our system
Michael Wintringham, State Services Commissioner, speaking on National Radio.
" I do not want an atmosphere where Members of Parliament feel inhibited from scrutinising
the public service."
Helen Clark, Prime Minister
" It is quite unbelievable that a high ranking civil servant can threaten legal action against an
MP and not inform the Minister responsible. Where is the accountability?"
Dr Muriel Newman, ACT Social Welfare Spokesman
"It's changed dramatically in terms of the way people respond to me in the streets now.
They're very nice now. By and large they're lovely. Lots of people come and talk to me still.
They're really pleased I've kept on going ... I have to cope with lots of things. I have to cope with
being touched and patted."
Christine Rankin, speaking to Guyon Espiner of Sunday Star Times (11 February 2001)
on how the public was warming to her.
" I was a very senior manager at the department of Social Welfare when Christine Rankin
was first employed there [...] While my politics could best be described as being to the right of
Atilla the Hun, I find myself on this one and only occasion in total agreement with Sue Bradford,
MP, when she says Rankin was promoted beyond her capabilities and has more style than substance.
" I question whether it is real style or just downright tackiness. Her comments that she has
to cope with being touched and patted, I find bizarre. Perhaps she does see herself as Mother
Teresa or Princess Diana.
" Hopefully this rings alarm bells for her employers and this ridiculous blight on the civil
service will be exorcised for good."
Leslie Hornsby, Kerikeri, Letter to the Editor, Sunday Star-Times 18 February 2001
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