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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.29

    27 November, 1995

  • JOBS and the ARTS
    The Artwork² arts and employment advocacy group.

    The official unemployment figures now stand at 107,000 people or 6.1% the lowest figures since December 1988, and considerably better than any forecasters were predicting. We include a special insert on the employment statistics with this issue of the Jobs Letter.

    Auckland is the biggest creator of jobs, adding 33,300 new jobs over the last year.

    Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Nelson, Malborough, Tasman, and the West Coast have all recorded rises in unemployment levels in the last three months.

    The rate of unemployment among Maori and Pacific Islanders is still a concern. The Maori rate is 15.1% and the Pacific rate is 14.1%, with the European rate at 4.3%.

    Employment Minister Wyatt Creech is expecting the drop in unemployment to slow in coming months. He reiterates that the government's employment policy has shifted to concentrating on the `problem areas', especially the differences in employment between different ethnic groups. He says that the lower the unemployment rate became, the harder it was to push it down, because those left tended to be `more difficult to employ'. Growth on its own will not solve the problems for those groups, and Creech says there was a need for active employment policies such as those announced in last month's employment package.

    Other political commentary: Steve Maharey believes we should shift the focus away from the fall in unemployment on to the quality of employment, saying that many NZers were concerned about the quality and security of their jobs. Jim Anderton says the figures confirmed that the government, Treasury and the Reserve Bank had decided that about 6% unemployment would be maintained in order to counteract inflation.

    Source - The Dominion 21 November 1995 "Fall in jobless will slow soon - Creech"
    Despite the overall drop in joblessness during the past two years and last month's release of the employment package unemployment still stands out as the main concern of voters. In a specially commissioned poll by the New Zealand Herald, unemployment ranked number one in opinions as the single most important issue facing New Zealand. Ranked second was Race Issues, 3rd was Health and 4th Education.
    Source - New Zealand Herald 15 November 1995 "Poll shows voters worry about jobs"
    The increase in the number of jobs is not being reflected in any similar increase in the number of job advertisements. The household labour force survey shows a remarkable increase in employment growth of 1.2% compared to a market expectation of 0.5%. The ANZ job advertisements monitor however records a slowing down of job advertisement growth, and predicts that this trend will continue.
    Source - Vivian Hutchinson interview with Bernard Hodgetts of ANZ Job Ads Focus 21 November 1995
    The downside of the good jobs figures is to be found in Reserve Bank concerns about inflation. Economists are predicting that the Reserve Bank will halt its easing up of monetary conditions because the lower jobless figures may lead to competition for higher wages, thereby threatening a growth in inflation. David Plank of the Bankers Trust believes that the Reserve Bank would now be reluctant to accept any further reductions in interest rates this year.
    Source - The Daily News 21 November 1995 "Interest rate cut unlikely after lower jobless news"
    In an article in the Dominion, Business Roundtable chairman Doug Myers says that the Employment Contracts Act and labour market reform has been the positive foundation for NZ's job creation. He warns political parties to compare NZ's example with that of Australia, which does not have a similar Employment Contracts Act. He observes that Australia has enjoyed a similar economic recovery but not the same job growth. Myers: "Australia's experience has proven beyond doubt that labour laws which confer privileges on unions and entrench rigid employment arrangements condemn outsiders to the misery of unemployment. They also breed conflict and inefficiency, instead of co-operation and more productive working arrangements ..." The Business Roundtable believes that if the Employment Contracts Act is not tampered with, and present economic conditions maintained, unemployment could fall to 4% by 1998/99.
    Source - The Dominion 22 November 1995 "Jobless rate falls" by Doug Myers
    Our media watch reports several newspaper editorials warning the government off creating special work schemes at this time of `impressive' job creation. The New Zealand Herald, for example, talks of `no end of work': "All NZers willing to work ought to be able to find a job of genuine value in a successful economy. Genuine value means the employee knows the work is worth remunerating, that it has not been created simply for the sake of such self-worth as an employee is supposed to find in work for which nobody would really pay for or which plainly offers too little to do.

    "NZ had many thousands of people under-employed in public or subsidised sectors not so long ago ... the country ceased the pretence in 1984 and began to employ its labour and capital only in activities of real market value. A realisation should be dawning by now that the only limit to employment in a free market is the capital and labour available..."

    Source - editorial in the New Zealand Herald 22 November 1995 "No end of work"
    The government says it will stop funding transition education centres for `youth at risk' in Christchurch, Invercargill and Whangarei from 1997. The centres offered courses in communications, job-seeking, career planning, interviewing, and CV writing as well as self-esteem and leadership training and were aimed at students whom schools considered were at a high risk of dropping out of the education system. The future funding for such programmes will be allocated on a per-capita basis to secondary schools, who could either fund the centres themselves, or contract this transition education out to other providers.

    Christchurch's Pitcaithly House is one of the centres that will be losing its funding. It has provided short courses to more than 1000 secondary school pupils from most Christchurch high schools. House director Carole Petrie says the centre will close, despite Education Ministry claims that it could continue as a private provider if it won contracts from schools. Petrie believes the schools will not be provided with enough resources to be able to afford to buy services from Pitcaithly.

    Source - Evening Standard 10 November 1995 " Government ignores youth at risk with funding cuts"
    Delegates at the inaugural `Careering 95' conference for Career Counseling in Hamilton earlier this month, are starting to put in place measures to more clearly define career counseling as a profession in NZ. The conference brought together industry representatives, private practitioners, government employees, school counsellors and administrators and addressed issues such as training and accreditation of career counsellors. A career industry group has been set up to develop national career industry standards as a part of the Qualifications Framework.

    Careering 95 convenor Rosemary Barrett says that delegates discussed the recent restructuring of government career information and guidance services (see last issue). She says the review clearly omits any government funding of career counselling, except for targeted disadvantaged groups. Barrett: "Delegates felt the profession was seen to be in danger because organisations which purchase career counselling services generally lack the expertise to judge what is and what is not good career counselling..."

    Source - fax from Rosemary Barrett 17 November 1995
    In Britain, government careers advice services have also been contracted out to private providers. In London, one of the country's largest private firms, Grand Metropolitan, has won the contract. Questions however are being asked about the quality of this careers advice, given that one of Grand Met's wholly owned subsidiaries is Burger King. The PSA Journal notes that this fast food chain pays some of its young employees as little as one pound ($2.43) a day.
    Source - PSA Journal November 1995 "Gizza job"
    The Next Step Democracy Movement has felt that the task of collecting 245,000 signatures on its six-question referendum proposal was too great. They were particularly disheartened when the Clerk of the House disallowed a third of the RSPCA referenda petition on battery hen farming, after finding signers did not sign the forms according to the strict criteria. As a result, the Next Step group has dropped four of its questions (including the one on full employment) and is concentrating only the health and education questions in order to reach their target.
    Source - Next Step Democracy Movement campaign update November 1995
    Nearly a third of NZ farming families have at least one person working off-farm to bring in extra income. Researchers Nicholas Taylor and Heather McCrosties Little have published a special report Means of Survival? that surveyed the Oxford, Ashburton and Gore areas. The report concludes that off-farm employment will continue to be an important component of farming finances. Women were found to be primarily involved in off-farm employment. Their reasons: to maintain a basic level of income for the farm, to protect the entity of their family farm, and to build their own careers.
    Source - Straight Furrow 6 November 1995 "Off-farm employment here to stay"
    Jane Kelsey's new book The New Zealand Experiment was launched in Auckland during the recent CHOGM conference. With NZ's neo-liberal economic theories being proclaimed as an international success story, and promoted by the World Bank and other international economic agencies as a model for the rest of the world to follow, Kelsey's book tries to persuade policy-makers to firmly reject such advice. The New Zealand Experiment challenges claims of the NZ `success' story, and examines what this `success' means for economic life, government, and social well-being in NZ today.

    Kelsey: " Whatever the economic outcomes, the country and many of its people are a great deal worse off. Unemployment and poverty have become structural features of NZ life. The number of NZers estimated to be living below the poverty line rose by about 35% between 1989 and 1992. By 1993, one in six NZers was considered to be living in poverty. Even if unemployment returns to the level of the mid-1980s still very high by NZ's historical standards poverty and hardship are expected to remain about the same. Both National and Labour have ignored the political, economic and human costs of these social indicators ..."

    The New Zealand Experiment: A World Model for Structural Adjustment? by Jane Kelsey published by the Auckland University Press with Bridget Williams Books. $39.95 Kelsey's book is also being published in London under the title of Economic Fundamentalism: Structural Adjustment in New Zealand.

    The Anglican Church believes that more than half of all beneficiaries will not gain from changes to the amount people earn while on benefits. Representatives at their recent Common Life Conference at Ngaruawahia expressed `grave concerns' about a growing `underclass' of beneficiaries and low-waged workers in the communities they served. The conference discussed the British Rowntree report which showed that the gap between rich and poor had grown faster in NZ than in the 17 other developed countries studied.

    Anglican social justice commissioner Jim Greenaway calls for `positive discrimination' through the proposed tax cuts to benefit those most in need. Greenaway: " The church has been very involved in the 10% of the population who can be described as the poor. The tax cuts, as proposed, won't be used to lift up that 10% as we believe they should..."

    Source - The Dominion November 1995 "Church concern about `growing underclass'"
    The Building Industry ITO continues its fight for more government resources (see last issue). ITO chief executive Trevor Allesbrook says that a $2m shortfall in funding next year would result in a 40% drop in apprenticeship numbers. He also says that funding cuts by ETSA effecting carpentry courses could force many apprentices to abandon their courses. Allesbrook says that collectively, the ITOs had bid for funding of $100m, but ETSA had told them that only $53m was available: "We and other ITOs facing major reductions in the amount of funding have tried to point out to ETSA that the methodology is flawed and that we just can't manage under this new arrangement..."

    Education Minister Lockwood Smith disputes these claims of under-funding. He says that the Building Industry ITO has been allocated a 120% increase in funding for 1996.

    Source - The Dominion 21 November 1995 "Cuts will affect apprentices - ITO" and The Dominion 22 November 1995 "Funding crisis disputed"


    What are the government's back-up plans for funding industry training if employers do not come forward with their funding contribution?

    What arts and cultural projects would bring your place alive, and create local jobs?

    " Labour spokesman Steve Maharey, searching for something to criticise, clutched at the "quality" of jobs being filled. But the important thing, surely, is to give people a toe-hold in real jobs and let them build from there, not encourage them to turn up their noses because some jobs lack "quality" ..."
    editorial in The Dominion 22 November 1995

    " Unemployment has declined to 6.1%, third lowest in the developed world, and is fast becoming an ethnic (and educational) rather than an economic problem ..."
    editorial in the New Zealand Herald 22 November 1995

    "The message is very clear: even if the NZ economy has shown some signs of recovering, many of the people have not..."
    Jane Kelsey, The New Zealand Experiment

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