Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Zealand works

At 3.7 percent, New Zealand’s unemployment is one of the lowest rates in the developed world. Employers repeatedly complain about the shortage of skilled workers in almost every industry, giving job seekers much more choice and flexibility in obtaining work.

So it should be no surprise that the number of people on the unemployment benefit has dropped to the lowest level in 37 years, according to figures released by the government.

The number of people receiving the unemployment benefit has declined 34 percent since Labour became government in 1999. Overall, there were 401,415 working-age people receiving some sort of benefit back then. Today there are only 265,747.

The number of Maori receiving unemployment benefits has dropped below 10,000 for the first time in many years. When Labour came to power, there were 44,000 Maori on the unemployment roll; now there are only 9,902.

The number of people receiving a sickness or invalid benefit remains a worry. Both numbers have increased (4% and 3% respectively). The government says that the rate of increase is slowing, but it will be a potential weak point for Labour in the next election if they don’t start to bring these numbers down, too.

Predictably, the Opposition seized on these last two figures in their attempt to discredit the Government (which is what Oppositions do). A few weeks ago, Opposition Leader John Key claimed there was a growing underclass in New Zealand. That claim wasn’t supported by these welfare statistics. However, this morning on TVNZ’s Breakfast, the party’s welfare spokesperson tried to put a new spin on it, saying “I think what John was saying…” (whenever a sentence begins that way, you know a politician is going to try and reinvent what was actually said). She claimed that there are “pockets” where an underclass is growing, and that’s probably true—just as it is in any developed country.

Still, the overall picture is a good one: More people working and fewer people on benefits. Isn’t that what every country wants?


d said...

I don't know much about the parties here, so it might be perfectly normal that more people are working (eh..laboring) since the Labour party took office....but I find it funny. =)

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

The Opposition doesn't get the humour, that's for sure.

I'll be going over NZ political parties in more detail at some stage, here and in my podcast. I just can't help myself!