No.164 10 April 2002 Essential Information on an Essential Issue

of key events over the last few weeks.





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11 March 2002

The ANZ's job advertisements survey finds that ad numbers for February rose by 6.2% compared to January. This was the first rise in six months and but is still 4.7% lower than for the same time last year.

An NZIER survey average of economic forecasts predicts that the NZ economy will grow by 2.6% over the next twelve months.

12 March 2002

The number of participants on the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (artists-on-the-dole) has increased from 196 in November to 782 at the start of January. ACT Party's Muriel Newman says she is worried that the programme gives people unrealistic expectations about getting a full-time job in the arts. But Minister of Employment Steve Maharey says that if people are getting on the programme it is because their work plans indicate a high chance of a job at the end of it.

13 March 2002

The British Home Office has dropped its proposal to trim working holiday visas from two to one years for young NZ'ers and Australians going to Britain to work, according to British MP Austin Mitchell.

14 March 2002

The Australian labour market continued to expand and create significantly more jobs in February than analysts had expected. The Australian unemployment rate dropped from 7.0% to 6.6% in February, although some of that drop was attributed to a decrease in the labour force participation rate.

15 March 2002

Many high school principals claim that substantial numbers of senior students have part-time jobs and that this often impacts on their ability to complete assignments and study, and restricts their participation in extra-curricular school activities.

17 March 2002

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce is intensifying its efforts to help skilled migrants find full-time work. 40 businesses are being asked to take a qualified migrant on for three to eight weeks to help identify what extra skills and training they needed to make them attractive to NZ employers. Winz has agreed to pay the workers' wages during their placements. The Chamber also has a job-matching website for immigrants at www.newkiwi.co.nz.

Hundreds of thousands of people protest at the European Union summit meeting in Spain. The meeting agenda was focused on making the EU more competitive than the US by deregulating areas like transport, energy and job security.

18 March 2002

After the EU summit, European Central Bank president Wim Duisenberg says that the linguistic and cultural diversity of the EU may mean it will never be able to outstrip US productivity. Duisenberg: "On the other hand we will have advantages such as our system of social protection, very benign compared to that of the US, but also very costly. Are we prepared to pay the price? The answer is yes."

Meat processing company Affco will lay-off 110 management and office staff. After these redundancies, Affco will have shed more than two-thirds of its head office and international staff over the last twelve months.

19 March 2002

An anonymous NZ businessman is researching a savings scheme designed to help parents, and other people, put money aside for children's future tertiary education costs. The scheme, which the NZ Herald says is likely to be called Able, may be put forward as an alternative to the student loan scheme.

The Chinese government admits that unemployment is one of its biggest problems. All over China uncompetitive state-owned factories are laying-off thousands of staff or closing altogether.

20 March 2002

The Australian economy is expected to grow by 3.75% this calendar year, according to an average of economic forecasts.

21 March 2002

Small businesses added 20,000 jobs to the NZ economy last year while large businesses added only 11,000 jobs. NZ has one of the highest proportions of micro (less than ten staff) and small (less than 50 staff) businesses in the world — together these make up 99% of NZ businesses.

24 March 2002

US air carrier United Airlines recalls 1,300 of the staff it laid-off late last year and says it is hiring 900 more staff in "key markets".

26 March 2002

Cutting taxes, scrapping the social welfare system and making individuals responsible for their own future is the answer to breaking NZ'ers dependency on the state, according to Peter Saunders, director of the Australian-based at the Centre for Independent Studies. Saunders says the tax money that goes on education, health and retirement support would be more efficiently spent by individuals purchasing their own services.

15,000 domestic purposes benefit eligibility decisions may be reviewed following the failure of Winz to amend its policy after a 1996 court case tightened the definition of "in a relationship in the nature of marriage". The court had concluded that "emotional commitment and financial interdependence" contributed to the definition of marriage ... points not taken on board by Winz. A report by barrister Frances Joychild says that between November 1996 and December 2000 benefits were cut off and repayments demanded when they should not have been. The government is seeking advice on whether reviewing all the cases is feasible and whether refunds might be paid to those denied their entitlements.27 March 2002

400 jobs will go as Carter Holt Harvey cuts production staff and contracts out the maintenance at its Kinleith pulp and paper mill. Maintenance for the mill will be contracted out and 190 people are expected to be employed by the new contractor. After the cuts CCH will have 369 employees, down from the over 1,000 staff it had three years ago.

National Bank's John McDermott says that business confidence is positive and the economy is in balance and running at its potential. A net 20% of businesses are expecting general business conditions to improve and 41% expect their own activity to improve.

28 March 2002

The merger of computer giants Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computers is expected to result in 15,000 job losses.

29 March 2002

Although the NZ economy under-performed expectations in the last quarter of 2001, the economy grew by 2.4% last year.

Supermarket rationing of rice, sugar and bottled water may threaten political and social stability in Argentina. The Argentine peso, until recently pegged to the US dollar, is now trading at 3.05 to the US dollar — virtually cutting the value of people's saving to less than one-third of what they were before the monetary crisis began.

1 April 2002

Benefits, student allowances, superannuation and war pensions increase by 1.82%. For a single unemployed adult, this will mean a $2.81 increase bringing the dole to $157.37 per week.

2 April 2002

The number of elderly people using foodbanks has doubled each year for the last two years. Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson says the situation in Auckland echoes 50 years ago when a rapid rise in the aged population caught authorities off-guard.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts world economic growth to be 2.7% and the US economy to grow 2.4% during the next twelve months.

3 April 2002

While the government says the average period for people being on the domestic purposes benefit is 3.7 years, DPB review campaigner Lindsay Mitchell estimates that period would be at least 6.5 years if it were calculated per person rather than per period on the benefit. Mitchell says that 25% of those currently on the DPB are on it for a second time and another 20% have been on it between three and five times. The official figure of 3.7 years is the average time a person is on the DBP each time they are on it.

Carter Holt Harvey's chief executive, Chris Liddell, receives a 23% pay rise, bringing his annual salary to $1.17 million.

4 April 2002

NZ technology firm Navman buys into US company Conexant and intends to create 60 new jobs in the Auckland area.

A Treasury paper says that allowing people to collect superannuation at 65 years, while they are still capable of working, offsets the potential economic gains their increased health and longevity presents. The paper promotes gradually raising the retirement age and argues that if the rate and eligibility for superannuation remain at the levels they are at now, the cost of the scheme will become unsustainable.

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Statistics That Matter
Work, Education and Income in NZ


  • Statistics New Zealand has released its "snapshot" of work, education and income data collected in the 2001 Census. We include an essential summary of the latest figures in this issue of The Jobs Letter. The Census figures show:

    — 1,727,271 people, or 61.6% of those aged 15 and over, were employed last year — compared with 60% in 1996 — and three in four of those were in full-time jobs.

    — Youth unemployment remains a serious concern with 19.5% of the 222,645 people aged 20 to 24 drawing the dole on Census night.

    — Young people aged 20 to 24 are also the most academically or vocationally qualified section of the population — with 86.5% having some qualification (compared with 65% of the 65 to 69-age bracket).

    — One in three adults had tertiary qualifications, and one in eight had a degree.

    — Although the largest occupational group was sales assistants, the most common field of study for after-school qualifications was nursing, where there were 58,170 graduates.

  • The Census figures show that the vast majority of NZ'ers live on low incomes — only 1 in every 6 gets more than $40,000 a year and 1 in 50 earns more than $100,000 a year.

    The median income for all NZ'ers was $18,500 a year. This included income received from all sources, including wages, self-employment, benefits, superannuation, interest, dividends and rents. The median number makes most NZ'ers look poorer than they really are, as this figure includes many people who are too young to work or are well past retirement age.

    Sources _ Statistics New Zealand Census Snapshot 3 (Work Education and Income) Media Release; New Zealand Herald 12 March 2002 "Work claims long hours" by Mathew Dearnaley; New Zealand Herald 12 March 2002 "What a way to make a living" by Monique Devereux; New Zealand Herald 16-17 March 2002 "Great little earners" by Mark Fryer


  • One of the significant features of the Census figures is that there are also almost 200,000 people who are working long hours — at least 60 hours a week. The figures: 575,715 people reported putting in at least 45 hours a week, of these, 193,116 said they worked at least 60 hours a week, and 54,108 said they worked at least 75 hours a week.

  • These longer working hours in NZ reflect an international trend where people are increasingly choosing work over leisure. According to Financial Times writer Richard Donkin, the average American now works one month a year longer than he or she did in the 1960s. The British are also working longer hours.

    In his book Blood, Sweat and Tears (see review in this issue), Donkin warns that too many people are giving too much of their lives away to their paid jobs: "It is as if the world has become split into two societies — one with the means to enjoy leisure but not the time, and one that has the time but not the means..."

  • The figures of long hours at work come as no surprise to Ross Wilson, President of the Council of Trade Unions. He says that many workers are spending much longer at work than they want to ... and this comes at the expense of the overall quality of their lives.

    Last year, the CTU biennial conference, attended by representatives of all the major New Zealand unions, unanimously endorsed a "Get a Life!" campaign, aimed at getting back a quality of life into work time arrangements. Wilson says the CTU will be co-ordinating a campaign across all sectors which will focus on achieving conditions like adequate time off, more "family friendly" provisions and reasonable working hours.

    Wilson: "Employer expectations of workers routinely working 45, 50 and even 60 hours a week are leaving people with nothing left for their families, communities and themselves. Across the range of industries and jobs, union members are saying the same thing: "We are tired of giving our whole lives to work and we want to `Get a Life'..."

    Sources _ Statistics New Zealand Census Snapshot 3 (Work Education and Income) Media Release; New Zealand Herald 12 March 2002 "Work claims long hours" by Mathew Dearnaley; New Zealand Herald 12 March 2002 "What a way to make a living" by Monique Devereux; New Zealand Herald 16-17 March 2002 "Great little earners" by Mark Fryer; prl NZ Council of Trade Unions Ross Wilson 12 March 2002 "Long Work Hours No Surprise"; "Blood, Sweat and Tears" book by Richard Donkin


  • "Having the time ... but not the means", may become much more of a hot political issue this year as NZ'ers once again start to debate how to support an aging population.

    Treasury has just released a working paper canvassing the benefits of raising the retirement age from 65 years to possibly 67 or 68 years. This may be necessary to counter what Treasury believes could become the biggest economic policy issue of the next 50 years — the rising costs of paying for a jump in the retired population. The Treasury suggests that healthier and longer-living NZ'ers will mean that many people could work productively beyond age 65.

  • In the next 50 years, the proportion of NZ'ers aged 65 or older is expected to more than double to 26% of the population, and the working age population is forecast to shrink. During this time, the cost of NZ Superannuation is expected to increase to more than 8% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, up from about a 4% level at present.

    Superannuation is paid out at 65% of the average wage for a married person and about 40% for a single person.

  • In response to the Treasury paper, Retirement Commissioner Colin Blair says that increasing the pension age is one of the options that needs to be considered, particularly if life expectancy continues to increase. Blair: "I don't think it is something that NZ'ers need to lose any sleep over immediately. They can only plan based on a system that's in place now."

    Both Labour and National parties have backed away from the issue by ruling out a change to the retirement age — at least for the foreseeable future. Finance Minister Michael Cullen says the coalition government's position is to secure the pension at current entitlements into the future by building up a capital fund to meet future costs.

    Source — The Dominion 5 April 2002 "Pension idea: let's all work longer" by Craig Howie; The Daily News 6 April 2002 "Pension Age tipped to rise" by NZPA


  • Even with the current age of retirement at 65 years, tens of thousands of New Zealanders are finding it impossible to work right through to retirement age. The Census 2001 figures show us that the proportion of NZ'ers in full-time work aged 50 to 59 years is 59%. The proportion in full-time work aged 50 to 65 years is only 45%.

    Tim Watkin, writing in the New Zealand Herald, points out that while mature unemployment levels have eased in the past six years, they are still cause for concern. Watkin: "As New Zealanders enter the last 10 years of a typical working life, their opportunity to save is falling. At an age when their parents would have been at the peak of their earning power, many cannot even find full-time work. The rules have changed around them ..."

  • Latest official figures obtained by National MP Bob Simcock shows that about 33,000 people over 45 years are on the dole — more than a quarter of all unemployment beneficiaries. This includes nearly 18,000 people over 45 who have been on the dole for more than two years.

    Simcock points out that these figures may well be under-stating the problem. Community groups have told him that the figures are just the "tip of the ice-berg", as many older people refuse to register for the benefit.


  • Employment Minister Steve Maharey concedes that the Government's policies aren't yet balanced to take account of the needs of older job-seekers as well as the young. He says that mature unemployment has received lots of attention in the past 18 months, but that's mostly been in the form of pilot programmes and studies.

    Maharey: "We've done a lot of work on the Work and Income side, but we would admit that what it's taught us is more about what we need to do than what we've succeeded in doing. I think we'd front to that and say we've got to do more ..."

  • Maharey told the New Zealand Herald that he had met the Winz National Employment Commissioner Ray Smith last month and told him: "I don't want more pilots. I don't want more thinking. I just want to be able to say to mature workers ... yes, things have got better."

    Winz is expected to announce new policies within two months. And within "a matter of weeks", Regional Employment Commissioners will be presented with plans for combating mature unemployment so "we can start providing them with funding".

    Maharey also says that mature job-seekers would become a priority group for Winz and the agency would be able to offer employers "concrete support so they will hire an older worker". Maharey: "In two months [if you're a mature worker entering a Winz office] you'll feel yourself to be a priority person with a group of people who have a clear idea of what it takes to get an employer to hire you ..."

    Source — New Zealand Herald 30 March 2002 "Mature workers on the scrap heap" by Tim Watkin and "Cash for jobs plan targets over-40s". INL Stuff website 5 April 2002 "Fears older jobseekers face ageist employers".


  • The Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association (ATSA) is currently doing a survey into the effects of student debt on women. ATSA believes that if the debt issue is ignored, the economic and social disadvantages women face will continue to grow. It says this issue has wider applicability to women in general, as student debt affects not only individuals, but also families and the wider community.

    ATSA is asking women who have had, or currently have, student debt to help with their survey. The survey can be accessed in PDF format on the Society for Research on Women website at www.geocities.com/marysrow. The deadline for responses is 19 April 2002.

    Source _Helen Sawyer ATSA Research Officer letter from to The Jobs Letter 26 March 2002

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