For immediate release
— Wellington, Wednesday 2 November 2011.
Welfare policies won’t do it.
Political parties need to start providing detail around what kind of jobs they will create and how they will achieve this or their policies to relieve unemployment will be largely worthless.
Salvation Army social policy spokesman major Campbell Roberts says an example of a basic lack of detail was the National Party’s recent welfare policy announcement.
“There is no action plan that lays out how sustainable jobs will be created and how new jobs will be directed to areas and towns where unemployment is high,” he says.
Single parents going back to the workforce need jobs with hours that match their parental responsibilities, he says. They also need employers who are willing to accommodate single parents when their child is sick and during school breaks.
“New jobs especially need to match the education, skill and experience levels of job seekers if policies are to be more than words,” Major Roberts says. “Most advertised jobs seek skills and education levels that only a small minority of our unemployed people have, so political parties should be prepared for greater investment in education and training if they want to significantly reduce unemployment.
“It also needs to be remembered that these people are not out of work because of any moral weakness on their part but because of a lack of job opportunities,” he says.
Furthermore, policy tends to focus on the cost of beneficiaries and conveniently ignores the poverty they live with, their struggling schools, inadequate housing, the lack of public services, and the hazards in their neighbourhoods like abundant liquor stores and pokie bars, Major Roberts says.
Significant new money is also needed for early childhood education (ECE) if these policies are to succeed. While the Government is investing in ECE in South Auckland, the region still needs about 100 average-sized early childhood education centres to reach the average national level of availability.
“Clearly, all of the $130 million pledged by National to get people into work is unlikely even to solve the ECE deficit in New Zealand’s poorer communities. But doing so will be critical if back-to-work policies are to have a good chance of success,” Major Roberts says.
More detail is also needed on how our frighteningly high youth unemployment levels will be cut. While 10,000 people came off the unemployment benefit in the past year, the unemployment rate for 15-19 year-olds rose from 24.7 per cent in the year to June 2010 to 27.6 per cent for the same period this year.
Also of great concern is that while the number of those on benefits has modestly fallen, the number of children living in beneficiary families has not.
“Fresh ideas and a measurable plan of action are needed if this potentially social and economic disaster is to be averted,” Major Roberts says.