Social Development Spokesperson
27 February 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT
Reforms must be meaningful
If the Government is serious about making a dent in benefit numbers it needs to focus on the real issues stopping job-seekers moving into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
Her comments follow the release of the Government’s planned welfare reforms.
“Paula Bennett is right to focus on sole parent households - New Zealand has one of the highest rates of unemployment for this group in the OECD, alongside Malta and Turkey,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“But for these parents, our starting point must be to acknowledge that raising a child is an incredibly important job in itself, and sole parents must be supported in this role during the critical early years. Most parents do just that and are moving into work.
“The Minister admits herself when she says ‘almost a third of sole mothers work full time… and many parents return to work one year after having a child or earlier’.
“The real question is whether her reforms will actually make a difference to those parents who are struggling to move into the workforce. “
“We need to ask three crucial questions: Do these parents have the training and education they need to move into work? Are they able to set up care arrangements for their children? And most importantly, are the jobs there?
“These are the areas that any reform needs to address and sadly Paula Bennett's proposals don’t do that.
“A 2009 paper on sole parents found 67 per cent of those available for work had problems getting work that paid enough, 66 per cent couldn’t find work for enough hours for it to be worthwhile, and 64 per cent didn’t have the skills employers wanted.
“Paula Bennett’s Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment, to assist young parents wanting to study with childcare costs may go some way to alleviate pressure, but lacks detail.
“Her emphasis on ‘work availability’ sounds good but there is no mention of job creation.
“Simply offering up a $10 a week bribe to young people to stay in training is not the sustainable response needed to help the 83,000 young New Zealanders not in employment, training and education.
“We have to start catching these young people at the school gate rather than the WINZ door by using models such as those promoted by the Mayor’s Taskforce for jobs.
“It’s also about time we started matching our young and unemployed people with the jobs we can’t fill because of our skills gap. Ideas like Labour’s policy of turning the dole into a subsidy for employers to take on young people as apprentices is a much more meaningful incentive that what the Government has proposed.
“For the sake of young people, parents and their children, we should be doing better than this,” Jacinda Ardern said.