No.219 26 August 2004 Essential Information on an Essential Issue

of key events over the last few weeks.











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6 November 2004

The government is bringing in $3 million tax dollars a day more than forecast. BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander: "It's a wonderful position for the Crown to be in because it opens up so many opportunities with what to do with the surplus. But it's disappointing that there really isn't much debate about what to do with it."

7 November 2004

South Australian Premier Mike Rann is in NZ promoting his state as a place for NZ businesses and skilled workers to relocate.

8 November 2004

Since 2000, the number of sickness beneficiaries has increased by 36% and invalid beneficiaries have increased by 28%. Associate Minister of Social Development Rick Barker says these figures reflect an ageing population.

But United Future MP Judy Turner says there has not been a corresponding large rise in the number of sickness beneficiaries who are over 60 years. Of the new sickness beneficiaries, just 15% are over 60 years, and of those who have begun receiving the invalid benefit since 2000, 39% are over age 60.

Wages rose by 0.7% last quarter or 2.2% for the year. The Department of Labour's Labour Cost Index and Quarterly Employment Survey can be downloaded (pdf 274kb 8pg) from here

9 November 2004

The NZ Fruitgrowers Federation is to address industry issues including labour shortages. Chief executive Peter Silcock says they will work with Immigration and Work and Income to find and train more seasonal workers. The Federation has strategies to encourage foreign backpackers to work in the industry.

Registrations open for the Future that Works _ economics, employment and the environment conference in New South Wales to be held 8-10th December where Jobs Letter editor Vivian Hutchinson will be a keynote speaker. The conference website can be found here

British Airways' profit rose last quarter after cutting jobs and demand for air travel increased. The airline has cut 13,082 _ more than a fifth of its workforce _ since 2001.

10 November 2004

A Nurses Organisation survey shows that 90% of in-home and resthome caregivers are extremely dissatisfied with their pay, which averages $11/hr.

Per household income in NZ has risen $7,720 since 1999, while per household taxes have risen by $5,840 over the same period, according to Treasury.

11 November 2004

NZ's unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% last quarter, the lowest since the current measures began.

The Household Labour force Survey conceals disturbing trends in long-term unemployment, according to United Future MP Judy Turner. Turner says against the trend of falling unemployment is an increase of people unemployed for over three years and over five years since 1999.

Unemployment in Australia has dipped to 5.3%, the lowest level in 26 years.

Student loans are "constricting" the future of potential graduates and forcing them to leave NZ, delay home ownership and put off having children, according to new research by AC Neilson done on behalf of StudyLink and the IRD.

Independent Fisheries is "tying up" its sole NZ deep-sea trawler with the loss of 10 Nelson jobs. The company still has four foreign-owned boats working for it.

12 November 2004

The Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain is in NZ to promote his country as a place for NZ companies to set up business.

A Consumer magazine survey reveals the average NZ builder earns $39/hr, up 21% since 2001. The number of apprentice carpenters has nearly doubled _ to almost 7,000 _ in the last two years.

The National Australia Bank plans to slash at least $500 million from its Australian operations by cutting back its middle management staff levels.

13 November 2004

Job advertisements rose 0.9% in October and are 7% higher than at this time last year, according the ANZ monthly survey.

14 November 2004

Dunedin's new mayor Peter Chin says the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs may need to refocus after unemployment in his district drops to 3.2%. Taskforce chairperson Garry Moore says it would be premature to change the Taskforce vision given it had not yet met its target of getting everyone under 25 years in work or training.

A shortage of labour to harvest asparagus has combined with unseasonable Spring weather to deplete the usual abundance of cheap asparagus. Canterbury asparagus grower Peter Falloon says that despite extensive advertising and appeals to Work and Income for help, he has only half the number of pickers he needs and so far has only harvested half the normal amount. Without enough workers, he and other asparagus growers have mowed some of their crop. Falloon: "If we are having labour problems, cherry growers will have labour problems and apple growers will have labour problems later on. The whole country loses."

15 November 2004

The Green Party is encouraging people to make submissions to the parliamentary Social Services Select Committee on the Social Security (Social Assistance) Amendment Bill. The bill proposes to increase the deduction from benefit that occurs when a single parent beneficiary fails or refuses to identify the other parent of a child. The Green Party submission guide to the bill can be found here

The head of a European agency that helps place skilled Europeans in work outside the continent is promoting the service in NZ. Gerald Schomann is meeting with the Employers and Manufacturers' Association to discuss how Europeans might meet some of the skill shortages in NZ. Unemployment rates in German and France are over 10%.

16 November 2004

The Waitakere City Council advertises a tender for a lead agency to run its youth transitions initiative.

In a bid to preserve the jobs of 12,000 auto workers, the German government is planning to invest $NZ350 million to improve road and rail links between GM-owned Saab plants in two cities. The investment is under investigation by the EU to determine if the infrastructure development constitutes illegal state aid to the car manufacturer.

17 November 2004

Fewer inmates are getting the opportunity to work while in prison. Changes to Department of Corrections policy that stipulates in-house businesses employing inmates had to make a profit has cut opportunities, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Wellington is having an even greater jobs boom than the rest of the country, with job growth at 2.3% last quarter, twice the national average. The Dominion Post attributes some of the increase on the economic activity surrounding the production of the movie King Kong in and around the city.

Sir Roy McKenzie, one of NZ's leading philanthropists, receives an honorary Doctorate of Commerce from Victoria University. McKenzie has spent more than 50 years contributing funds to areas of need in NZ.

A Swedish study finds that, shift workers have reduced sleep quality and face a greater risk of developing heart disease, ulcers, depression, sleep abnormality and infertility. The study was done by Torbjorn Akerstedt at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute.

18 November 2004

Britain's unemployment rate falls to 4.6%, the lowest rate in 20 years.

19 November 2004

The University of Otago joins its Auckland counterpart in seeking an exemption from the government's set maximum fee increase for medical students. The universities want to raise medical course fees by 10%.

NZ Medical Association says that instead of granting an exemption to the fee maximum, the government should examine whether it is funding medical courses adequately. Chairperson Tricia Briscoe says that huge fees lead to huge debts which in turn contribute to the brain drain of doctors away from NZ. She says that ultimately, the cost of health care to NZ'ers is likely to increase long-term as doctors pay back their huge loans."

20 November 2004

NZ's Security Information Service (SIS) has been running a major campaign targeting a variety of Maori organisations and individuals over several years, according to an former SIS agent who quit in September because he was "disgusted at a system that was spying on decent, law-abiding NZ'ers".

21 November 2004

Australian telecommunications company Optus will establish a 150-seat call centre in India. It says the move won't affect permanent staff but has left the fate of hundreds of Australian call centre contractors up in the air.

National Australia Bank restructuring will see 300 jobs disappear, according the Australian Financial Times.

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  • New Zealand has reason to celebrate as the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.8%, or 79,000 people. We now have the second lowest unemployment rate in the world, and the lowest rate since the Household Labour Force Survey began in 1986.

    The drop in unemployment has been driven by a substantial increase in the number of new jobs — some 19,000 were created last quarter. Since this time last year, the economy has added 56,000 new jobs.

  • We include our regular Statistics That Matter summary in this issue of The Jobs Letter. Some highlights:

    — the working-age population expanded by 15,000 people over the last three months. The greater number of jobs created has lead to a rise in the labour force participation rate to 67% — also a record high;

    — the increased workforce participation rate was driven largely by a significant increase in the number of women joining the labour force. In a reversal of recent trends, more women (16,000) started working than men (3,000);

    — Maori unemployment (8.3%) has continuously fallen since June 1999;

    —the new jobs were mainly in full-time employment. And of the 450,000 people who are employed part-time, a near record low of 18.2% said they would prefer to have worked more hours.

    Source — Statistics NZ HLFS September 2004 quarter, 11 November 2004; The Daily News 12 November 2004 "Unemployment rate at 19-year low" by Simon Louisson; The Dominion Post 12 November 2004 "Ads reflect skills shortage".

  • The number of job vacancy ads rose above 34,000 last month for just the second time ever, indicating the demand for workers is remaining high. Craig Ebert, economist at the Bank of New Zealand, says that the strength of job ads and company hiring intentions suggests that, by March next year, the unemployment rate could be closer to 3% than 4%.
    Source — Bloomberg.com 9 November 2004 "NZ third-quarter jobless rate probably fell to 17-year low"; The Dominion Post 12 November 2004 "Rate rise tipped as jobs run hot."

  • New Zealand isn't the only OECD country experiencing a significant drop in unemployment. Australia's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in 26 years as its economy added twice as many jobs as had been expected last month. The Australian jobless rate is now at 5.3%, its lowest level since their monthly labour force series began in 1978.

    And Britain's unemployment rate has also fallen to a 20-year low of 4.6%. It is also the lowest figure since their present record-keeping system began in 1984.

    Source — New Zealand Herald 12 November 2004 "Jobless lowest in 26 years"; The Dominion Post, 19 Nov 04, "Jobless Rate at New Low".

    on lower unemployment

    helenclark2.jpg - 8242 Bytes

    " Unemployment just hit 3.8% ... that's down 44% in five years. We're making huge inroads into unemployment in regions and in parts of our population where it seemed set to be high for ever. That means families who haven't seen much work in a couple of generations are getting jobs.
    " More than 200,000 extra jobs have been created since we came into government. That's over 100 jobs a day, every day, since we were elected five years ago. The numbers on the unemployment benefit have more than halved _ and the numbers on working age benefits overall are down by over 16%. That's why our opponents are having trouble drawing up policies on welfare! People on welfare want a chance to work _ and under Labour they're getting that chance. "

    — Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaking to the Labour Party Conference 15 November 2004

    maharey02.jpg - 5641 Bytes

    " This is a very strong result."

    — Steve Maharey, Minister of Social Development and Employment

    " This is a really interesting time in New Zealand because for a long time we had too many people and not enough jobs, now we've got too many jobs and not enough people. We haven't been in this place for about two decades ..."

    — Paul Swain, Minister of Immigration

    " The dramatic news on our unemployment rate highlights again the benefits of five years of progressive government promoting regional, industry and economic development. It reminds us why we need to keep on delivering policies that propel companies' growth and that add to further productivity gains for our economy so we can carry on delivering forward-looking education, housing and social policies..."

    — Matt Robson, Progressive MP

    " When last October there were 80,000 people on all forms of unemployment benefit, why are growers, such as Peter Falloon of Canterbury, mowing their asparagus crops and losing thousands of dollars because they cannot fill vacancies for unskilled work; and what does the Minister say to growers such as Peter Wing in the Waikato, who, despite offering $20 an hour and transport, can still not fill vacancies, and last month mowed 12 tonnes of asparagus because he could not fill the vacancies on his farm? "

    — Katherine Rich, National Party spokesperson on social welfare, asking a question in Parliament

    "Labour is a resource which is becoming scarcer by the minute..."

    — John McDermott, National Bank chief economist

    " The unemployment rate is such a broad indicator of how overheated the economy is and is likely to become. It's very much a reminder of a very stretched economy, one where capacity constraints are getting worse, not better, and in that sense keeping the potential for inflation pressure right to the fore..."

    — Craig Ebert, BNZ economist.


  • The labour cost index — compiled by the Department of Labour — is at 2.2% for the year, which is near the rate of inflation. So even with labour and skill shortages, wages have not risen above the cost of living rises and workers have not experienced an increase in their purchasing power.

    Deutsche Bank chief economist Ulf Schoefisch agrees wage inflation has been mute. He says business owners will resist broad-based wage increases without corresponding productivity gains, otherwise the rises will have come out of their profits.

    Westpac Bank says that the tight labour market and skills shortages will push the labour cost index up, but it doesn't expect large increases. Westpac predicts the private sector wage rate to reach 2.5% by the middle of next year.

    Australia's tight labour market hasn't pushed up wages, either. The latest Australian labour price index rose 3.5% over the year, a fact that "seems likely to calm fears of a breakout in wages as unemployment reaches historic lows," according to Jim Parker in the Australian Financial Review.

    Source — New Zealand Herald 12 November 2004, "Jobless rate drops to an 18-year low" by Brian Fallow; The Dominion Post, 9 Novemeber 2004, "December rate hike unlikely _ economists"; The Dominion Post, 18 November 2004, "Wage figures give Auzzies a breather" by Jim Parker reprinted from the Australian Financial Review.


  • Amidst the good news on the jobs figures, it is evident that young people are still substantially missing out on the large numbers of new jobs that have been created. Despite young people under 25 years now making up 45% of the unemployed, they have gained only 8% of the new jobs created since June 1998.

    By far the greatest share of the new jobs has gone to older workers — with just over two thirds (68%) of the new jobs going to people aged 45 and over.

    The job creation is good news for Maori and Pacific communities — just over one fifth (21%) of the new jobs have gone to Maori and Pacific people.

    Most regions are doing very well — with the notable increase of 40% of jobs in Canterbury. But there has been little job growth in Wellington (only 4%), and employment remains static in Southland.

    When we look at a breakdown of the new jobs by economic sector, we see that the Health and Community Services Sector has increased its workforce by 44%, the Construction sector by 33%, and Education by 28%. Manufacturing has grown only by 3%.

    — see The Jobs Letter: Who Got the Jobs? feature on our website here


  • paulswain.jpg - 32856 Bytes The government is working on ways to bring more skilled immigrants into the country but does not want a flood of cheap labour, according to Immigration Minister Paul Swain.

    The release of the lower unemployment figures has prompted further calls from industry groups for the government to bring in more immigrants, saying they are facing a shortage of workers — particularly in the horticulture industry where they cannot get enough fruit pickers.

    Business leaders say immigration rules should be relaxed to alleviate the shortage of skilled employees. However, unions have argued higher wages are needed to keep skilled New Zealanders from leaving the country in search of better pay.

    Paul Swain told National Radio there was "no quick fix" to the problem but the government was working to bring in more skilled immigrants. Swain: " We're obviously concentrating on quality but what I'm not keen to do is flood New Zealand with a whole pile of cheap labour which is not good in the long term for New Zealand and drives New Zealand wage rates down."

    Swain says that in the short term there had to be "some immigration solutions" to help the horticulture industry find workers and the government was working with the industry on a strategy. Swain: "But in the long term, the horticulture industry has got to look at their own employment practices, upskilling, better wages and conditions, looking ... and at using other pools of labour, for example, women at home."

    Source — Stuff website 12 November 2004 " Immigration yes, flood of cheap labour no - Swain"


  • garrymoore04.jpg - 6345 Bytes The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, meeting for the first time since the local body elections, has re-affirmed their commitment to getting every young New Zealander into work or education, and have issued a new statement of their vision and objectives for the 2004-2007 term.

    The Mayors have re-affirmed their commitment to continue working towards the "zero waste of New Zealanders" and have changed their specific vision to include working for a "youth guarantee" that all young New Zealanders under 25 years be in paid work, in training or education, or in useful activities in our communities.

    They have also re-affirmed their partnership with the government which is working towards the goal that, by 2007, all 15-19 year olds "will be engaged in appropriate education, training, work, or other options which will lead to long term economic independence and well-being."

  • The Taskforce is only months away from the 2005 deadline it set itself when it was established in 2000. But the Mayors assert that so much good progress has been made, it is critical that they keep the Taskforce momentum going.

    Taskforce chairman and Mayor of Christchurch Garry Moore: "Getting to 2005 without fully achieving the Taskforce's first stated goal isn't going to mean that this initiative has failed. It just brings us back to the realities and complexities of the task that we have taken on ..."

    " We have always said that the Mayors Taskforce employment goals are cultural goals, and that they will only be achieved by igniting a systemic change across many inter-connected sectors and agencies. I think it is important for us to celebrate the fact that this Taskforce has gained much more traction on employment issues, and has sparked more practical initiatives on the ground, than was achieved by earlier efforts such as the Prime Ministers Employment Taskforce in 1994."

    Moore points out that so many Mayors joining together to take leadership on a social and economic issue has never happened before in the history of New Zealand local government. He says it has proven to be a fundamental revolution in the way Mayors see themselves and the role they are seen to take in their communities.

    Moore: " We haven't heard anyone in the community fundamentally disagreeing with the vision of the Taskforce. There is great support for it. The Mayors have been able to provide leadership and advocacy on how achieving these employment goals will lead to the sort of New Zealand that we all would be proud to live in. We are certainly not going to stop this Taskforce until every New Zealander is guaranteed a place in that vision."

  • Garry Moore says that the Taskforce is not only motivated by the social welfare issues of getting unemployed people into jobs ... but a majority of Mayors say they are equally concerned about the skill shortage issues that are now affecting their regions which are in the midst of a growing economy. Moore: "The Taskforce is all about "jobs", not just unemployment. We will not have truly sustainable economic growth in our regions unless we also have a coherent strategy that addresses skill shortages."

    "To some extent, the establishment of the Taskforce in 2000 anticipated the Local Government Act of 2002 which makes "sustainable development" and the "social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of our communities" a direct focus and responsibility for councils. Mayors and councils have been given an important legislative mandate to express such cultural goals in their Long-Term Council Community Plans (LTCCP), which many of us have now done. The Mayors Taskforce will continue to be an important leadership element in working for these cultural goals."

    mtfjlogo.gif - 4956 Bytes

  • The new Mayors Taskforce vision statement, passed at the Core Group meeting last week, now includes the concept of working towards a "guarantee" that all New Zealanders will have access to work and education. Moore: "This re-statement of our vision will continue to put a "stretch" on ourselves, and our partners in this initiative, in order to deliver such a guarantee to the people of New Zealand."

    The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs vision statement now includes:

    A youth guarantee — that all young people under 25 years be in paid work, in training or education, or in useful activities in our communities.

    A job guarantee — that all adults who are long-term unemployed (registered for more than 12 months) have the opportunity and be encouraged to be in paid work, in training or education, or in useful activities in our communities.

  • Three Mayors, from districts that hadn't been members, have joined the Taskforce since the last elections — Bob Buchanan (Mayor of Rangitikei), Adrienne Staples (Mayor of South Wairarapa) and Dick Hubbard (Mayor of Auckland). This brings the Taskforce membership up to 65 Mayors, or 87% of all Mayors in the country.

  • The Core Group of the Mayors Taskforce is self-selecting, and meets every three months in Wellington. These meetings also usually include meetings with government Ministers and the heads of different government departments. The current core group includes Garry Moore (Mayor of Christchurch), Jenny Brash (Mayor of Porirua), Peter Tennent (Mayor of New Plymouth), Paul Matheson (Mayor of Nelson), Frana Cardno (Mayor of Southland), Maureen Reynolds (Mayor of Tararua), Tim Shadbolt (Mayor of Invercargill), Les Probert (Mayor of Wairoa), Yvonne Sharp (Mayor of Far North), John Forbes (Mayor of Opotiki), Bob Harvey (Mayor of Waitakere), Mary Bourke (Mayor of South Taranaki), and Wayne Guppy (Mayor of Upper Hutt).

    Paul Matheson (Mayor of Nelson) has been elected deputy chairperson of the Taskforce, replacing Sukhi Turner who retired as Mayor of Dunedin at the last election.

  • The Taskforce is planning to hold its major annual meeting in Christchurch on February 2005 . It will be the first Taskforce meeting for nearly 40% of the members who have just joined as new Mayors after the recent election. The Christchurch meeting aims to bring these newly-elected Mayors up-to-date with examples of Taskforce activities happening around the country.
    Source — vivian Hutchinson is Community Adviser to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and attended the Core Group Meeting in Wellington 18 November 2004


  • huitau-logo1.jpg - 7023 Bytes Also at the Taskforce meeting, Core Group Mayors met with former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves and representatives from the upcoming Hui Taumata conference on Maori Economic Development which will be held in Wellington at the beginning of March.

    Sir Paul briefed the Mayors on the objectives of the conference which draws its inspiration from the first Hui Taumata in 1984 when Mâori leaders and thinkers came together to share their dreams and ideas for the 20 years ahead. This second Hui Taumata in 2005 will celebrate what has been achieved so far, focusing the power of Maori thought on the expansion of economic pathways to ensure a successful future for our children and grandchildren.

    — The Hui Taumata 2005 website can be found here


  • CPAG.gif - 8712 Bytes The most vulnerable people in New Zealand have been left behind, further entrenching an underclass in poverty despite the government's "Working for Families" assistance package, according to a new report produced for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

    Cut Price Kids, by Auckland University economist Susan St John and sociologist David Craig, argues that design flaws in the government package leave the poorest children either worse off or with very little help. It says by rewarding parents who are employed, it has created a bigger gap between beneficiaries and those with jobs, thereby discriminating against children whose parents are beneficiaries. The report says New Zealand is a "laggard" in family assistance compared to other similar countries such as Australia and Britain where per-child weekly payments are the same for all children regardless of the source of their parents' income.

    The "Working for Families" package was widely applauded when it was announced in May (see issue 207 of The Jobs Letter). So what has changed? Cut Price Kids co-author David Craig told NewsTalk ZB: "The policy was the first major redistribution towards poor New Zealanders for 30 years. All of the people at Child Poverty wanted to say something positive about it at the time. But really when we come down to it, when we've looked at the fine print over time, we're finding it really hard to congratulate the government over it. The package denies the poorest families benefits it is delivering to already better-off working families. It leaves those who should be at the front of the queue at the back. It sets out to narrowly target benefits to those already better off, and create a significant gap between working and benefit families. It achieves this, but at the expense of the poorest children. These children are simply too important to leave behind. For their own wellbeing and security, for their families' sanity and stability, for the future strength of the workforce and society, these children need to be brought along too."

    cutpricekidsbdr.jpg - 7948 Bytes

    — Cut Price Kids: Does the 2004 Working for Families Budget Work for Children?

    14 November 2004, published the Child Poverty Action Group, can be downloaded from here (PDF 80 pg, 415kb).

  • The Quality Public Education Coalition agrees with the CPAG report, saying it too had welcomed the "Working for Families" assistance package and of its contribution to education because there is a clear link between education achievement and household income. "However, once the smoke and spin has cleared from the government's package, it is clear as CPAG reports, that as many as 175,000 New Zealand children will remain living in poverty even after the package is fully implemented. The Minister should welcome the report as a reflection of the urgent action needed to bring all children and their families into the warmth of a caring society and their educational future."

  • Minister of Social Development Steve Maharey disputes the criticism saying the Cut Price Kids report claims are inaccurate and unscientific. He says it is wrong to suggest people on benefits don't get extra support from the Working for Families package and the authors fail to take account of what the government has done in the past four years. Maharey: "They don't acknowledge things like income-related rents, state houses being built, primary health organisations lowering the cost of health care, $200 million in areas like meningococcal disease, minimum wages going up every year since we've been in, the domestic purposes benefit changes which allowed people to earn more income, and more money into childcare and early childhood education strategy."

    The Cut Price Kids report is very disappointing, according to Charles Waldegrave, co-leader of the New Zealand poverty measurement project. He says it is a misrepresentation of the family package and takes no account of recent improvements in housing, childcare and health assistance.

  • cullen.jpg - 9862 Bytes Finance Minister Michael Cullen defends the "Working for Families" package, saying it will lead to a huge reduction in child poverty in the next few years. Speaking to the Service and Food Workers Union, Cullen says : "It is important to understand its impact. Using a poverty threshold of 50% of 1998 household median income adjusted for inflation, Working for Families is forecast to lead to about a 70% reduction in child poverty in the next three years. If we use a higher threshold of 60% of median income, Working for Families is forecast to lead to about a 30% reduction in child poverty by 2007. Living standards will improve among almost all families earning under $45,000 a year, and a significant number of families earning $45,000 - $70,000 a year."

    Cullen says he is not suggesting that "all is rosy", nor will his government overcome a social deficit built up over decades in a few years. Cullen: "However, these are the kind of measures that will make a difference for many New Zealand families, especially those who are under considerable strain and finding it hard to achieve a balance between life and work."

  • National Party welfare spokesperson Katherine Rich also has little sympathy for the arguments raised by CPAG. She agrees that too many children are living in poverty, however the solution is not to add to welfare payments but to get more families into paid work.

    ACT deputy leader Muriel Newman says she is worried that more generous welfare benefits, as suggested by groups like CPAG, could make the problem worse rather than better.

    Sources — Press Release, Child Poverty Action Group 14 November 2004 "Working for Children?" Sunday Star-Times 14 November 2004 "Govt `fostering gap between rich and poor'" by Donna Chisholm; Dominion Post 15 November 2004 "Key politicians slate child poverty action group report"; Press Release, Quality Public Education Coalition, 15 November 2004, Child Poverty Action Report Welcomed; Dr David Craig, co-author of a report on child poverty, interviewed by Newstalk ZB's John Dunne, 16/11/2004 10:16 AM, http://xtra.co.nz/broadband/0,,10980-3858582-25,00.htm; Michael Cullen Speech to the Service and Food Workers Union Thursday, 18 November 2004.

    on Cut Price Kids

    "What is it about these people that they cannot acknowledge that this Government inherited a massive social deficit and we have been busy doing things they've been asking for for the last four years? The group assumes everyone stays on benefits, whereas the government is determined to create a pathway into work that gives people more money. We do want to lift the income of beneficiaries but we also want to persuade people into paid employment where they can get a real return for going to work."

    — Steve Maharey, Minister of Social Development

    "The biggest flaw in the package is to shift the focus from specifically addressing the needs of children in poverty to rewarding parents in paid work."

    —Peter Gerrie, chairperson of the Wellington Branch of CPAG

    "Cut Price Kids confirms that "Working for Families" does nowhere near enough for the poorest families in New Zealand as they continue to pay the price of years of Labour and National policies that deliberately caused structural unemployment and poverty. The current policy mix punishes the children of beneficiaries for the "sins" of their parents. While it is heartening that unemployment is falling, low wages, casual jobs and the fact that many families are still dependent on benefits show that jobs on their own

    don't solve the problem of child poverty. The Government likes to pretend that its policies are addressing the entrenched and ghettoised family poverty that exists in places like South and West Auckland, Northland and the East Coast - they aren't."

    — Sue Bradford, Green MP

    "The government is so focused on getting parents to work they have forgotten to help those who cannot, like the mentally ill or solo mothers. The problem with "Working for Families" is that it will help the nearly poor. It gives all the incentives to earners, but the really poor get nothing."

    — Dr Judy Rankin, Public Health Association spokesperson

    "In Britain, a family with three children on the average household income gets not only around £36 (about $95) a week in universal child benefit, but also gets free visits to the doctor and free prescriptions. Even the Australian system is far simpler, more generous and humane than ours. Its family benefit equivalent is quasi-universal (all but the top 6% of children get the payment), inflation-adjusted, and doesn't abate until a much higher income level than in New Zealand (A$32,485 to the $20,000 here, rising to $27,500 from 2006)."

    — Tapu Misa, New Zealand Herald columnist


  • gleisner.gif - 9591 Bytes Children whose mothers return to work soon after they are born don't suffer for it, according to a report on the impact of working mothers commissioned by the Ministry of Women's Affairs. The report reviews existing domestic and international studies and concludes that maternal employment in itself has no significant negative or positive effects on children. It says some international evidence points to possible harm if the mother becomes overloaded with work in the child's first year, but this can be minimised if the child gets good quality early education.

    What does impact negatively on children is early, extensive and poor quality non-maternal care combined with poor quality home care. The most important influences on children's development include quality of interactions between the child and key adults — be it at home or in early childhood education — and children's participation in some quality early childhood education.

    Women's Affairs chief executive Shenagh Gleisner: "This report should ease working mothers' concerns. I hope it will make women feel less guilty. I think the surprise will be that being a working mother is not harmful."

    —Influences of Maternal Employment and Early Childhood Education on Young Children's Cognitive and Behavioural Outcomes, October 2004, published by the Ministry of Women's Affairs (PDF 56pg, 365kb) from here

    Source — Sunday Star-Times 21 November 2004 "Children with working mums don't suffer — report" by Irene Chapple.


  • Employers and staff should collectively develop more flexible working hour arrangements that suit everyone, according to a visiting British trade unionist. Jo Morris is in New Zealand to promote the NZ Council of Trade Unions' It's About Time guide, which outlines how employees and employers can sort out more flexible hours of work. Morris gives an example of employment flexibility for a group of local authority gardeners who were facing cutbacks but instead agreed to rewrite their collective employment contracts to work longer hours in summer in exchange for shorter hours — a four day week — in winter. It fitted with the growing season and avoided both the cutbacks and the need to employ contractors during the busy summer season.

    Morris says the flexible work issue has been mistakenly labelled as a women's issue, but it is just as important for men who need balance and flexibility as well. Morris: "Child care involves both parents making arrangements at work. Men also have elderly parents who need care and attention."

    Source — Manawatu Standard 8 November 2004 "Setting a balance in working life" by Anna Wallis.

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    — It's About Time! Union Guide to Work-Life Balance by the Council of Trade Unions (November 2004)

    — Download "It's About Time!" (PDF, 808KB) from here

  • "It's About Time!" defines the issue and the roles of unions, the Government and employers in removing the barriers that stop workers achieving balance between work and the rest of their lives.
    The book also identifies practical work-life balance working arrangements and processes for change in workplaces, which not only help workers achieve better balance, but also assist employers in attracting and retaining staff.


  • The government is concerned about the lack of flexibility in the workplace. And it will soon release best-practice guidelines on how employers can accommodate staff who want a better work-life balance. The guidelines will be modelled on British policies that give employees with young children the right to request part-time or flexible working hours. Employees can also ask to work from home. Employers retain the right to say no, but they are required to seriously consider each request and give reasons for their decision. Associate Minister of Labour Ruth Dyson says if in 12 months workplaces have shown little or no sign of providing workers with greater flexibility, the government will consider legislation forcing the issue.
    Source—Sunday Star Times 14 November 2004 "Kiwis are working their lives away" by Ruth Laugesen and Emily Watt.


  • A permit to work in New Zealand can be processed in one week in Sydney and London, but in Wellington it takes five weeks and in Hamilton, eight weeks. National MP Tony Ryall suggests that visitors who arrive and decide they want to stay and work might be better off flying to Sydney to be processed.

    But the Immigration Service says comparing overseas applications procedures with local ones is not fair. Chief operating officer Brendan Quirk says Immigration Services offices in New Zealand had to do a lot more checking and were often dealing with the semi-skilled or low-skilled end of the market. Processing times at the busiest branch, Auckland, have dropped from 39 days to 10 days and Quirk says there have been improvements in other centres.

    Source — The Dominion Post, 10 November 2004, "Sydney faster for work permits".


  • A leading British employers organisation is making the controversial claim that there will be no jobs for unskilled workers in Britain within 10 years. The Confederation of British Industries (CBI) is basing their prediction on the growth in outsourcing manufacturing and sales jobs abroad to economies where staff are hired at a fraction of the cost of employing equivalent British workers. Director-general Digby Jones says that the challenge is to create more jobs than we lose — something Britain is currently achieving — and to ensure people have the skills to take advantage of these new jobs.

    In a survey of 150 companies (employing 750,000 people between them) 51% say the pressure to move jobs abroad has increased. The CBI says the phenomenon of moving jobs abroad is now so advanced it has spread from the largely unskilled manufacturing sector through to financial services and IT. Call centres — the most significant example of outsourcing — accounted for only 14% of jobs moved abroad. India and China remain the most popular places for exporting jobs, with Eastern European countries becoming increasingly attractive.

    Source — Daily Telegraph, UK, 8 November 2004 "Unskilled jobs to go in 10 years" by Malcolm Moore, Economics Correspondent.

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