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Letter No.55
17 February, 1997

31 January 1997

The ANZ predicts that declining foreign interest in NZ investments will allow the exchange rate on the NZ dollar will fall by 5% by the middle of this year.

The number of workers on collective employment contracts has more than halved since the Employment Contracts Act was introduced in 1991.

1 February 1997

Unemployment in France has reached a record 12.7%. The figures make President Jacques Chirac's pledge to cut unemployment harder to fulfill as France tries to rein in spending in order to meet the deficit criteria for joining the European single currency in 1999.

Unemployment in Japan is now at 3.4%, its highest figure since records began in 1953.

2 February 1997

The World Microcredit Summit opens in Washington.

More than 10,000 school pupils were suspended from NZ schools last year -- almost two and a half times the number in 1990.

3 February 1997

The Labour Party claims that student debt will account for 10% of the NZ economy by the year 2024. Revenue spokesman Mark Peck says this raises questions about the sustainability of the student loans scheme.

4 February 1997

Statistics NZ releases the latest employment figures -- official unemployment is now at its lowest rate since 1988.

Primary School principals are concerned about the shortage of relieving teachers, many of whom were now working in schools full-time.

5 February 1997

Porirua's Mitsubishi assembly plant announces 80 layoffs, blaming government policies including the high NZ dollar.

Four teenagers and their tutor on a Bridging to Employment programme run by Te Wananga o Aotearoa are temporarily suspended after a visit to a bank "to look at their security", as part of the course, leads to police being called in on suspicion of an attempted bank robbery.

Labour's Steve Maharey says he has a "big problem with forcing people into slave labour" with the work-for-the-dole schemes being proposed by the coalition government. Maharey: "They can't just pull tens of thousands of worthwhile jobs out of the air. They simply aren't there ..."

6 February 1997

Police are leaving their jobs at a greater rate than ever, with resignations last year running at an average of 38 each month.

7 February 1997

Waitangi Day

The State Services Commission has reviewed the coalition government's plans to make student allowances universal, and paying them at the same rate as the dole. They say it will cost $346m a year, and note that 98% of this money would be going to students from middle and high-income families.

8 February 1997

Cedenco Foods tomato processing plant in Victoria, Australia is now in full production, and the company has announced it is looking to expand its remaining Gisborne operations "in due course".

9 February 1997

Australia plans to introduce work-for-the dole schemes aimed at young people living in rural and regional areas.

The US stock market soars as stronger-than-expected job growth figures, along with tame wage increases, show that the US economy is enjoying robust growth, with low inflation.

The G7 finance ministers and central bank managers finish their summit meeting in Germany. They are trying to halt the rise in the US dollar, and are concerned about the state of European Union currencies which plan to unite into a single currency in 1999, and the effect this will have on European unemployment.

10 February 1997

The High Court has ruled that student loans are not income and should not be counted as such when deciding whether students are eligible for benefits. The NZ University Students Association hails the landmark decision that could lead to a flood of students seeking more government income support.

Nelson clothing firm Martha Washington lays off 36 workers because it cannot compete with Australian retail chains.

No thanks. On the eve of a business breakfast forum in Wellington, the Manufacturers Federation reiterates its opposition to the $100m funding to business development which was announced in last year's coalition government agreement. The Federation says it is looking for promises of reduced spending from the coalition government, in order to bring down the high NZ dollar.

11 February 1997

Tighter welfare rules and stronger incentives to work are high on the coalition government agenda, according to Prime Minister Jim Bolger, Treasurer Winston Peters and Minister of Finance Bill Birch who were speakers at a business breakfast forum in Wellington. Winston Peter said he would not be reacting to 'short-term crises' in the exchange rate.

Winston Peters also said the coalition government would be distinguished by the prominence it gave the value of self-reliance and the need to shift people "from state dependence to independence ..."

12 February 1997

Bay of Plenty dairy farmers are concerned that if the merger between the Hamilton-based NZ Dairy Group and Bay Milk Products goes ahead, then the Dairy group's Reporoa plant will close and 80 jobs will be lost.

13 February 1997

The Bankers Trust says that it expects the current fall in the NZ dollar to be "moderate and short-lived".

14 February 1997

Schools with high concentrations of Maori students also have the highest percentages of overseas teachers, according to an Education Ministry survey.

Correction: The minimum wage is only going up to $7.00, and not $7.50 as reported in the Diary of the last The Jobs Letter. The coalition says it will review the situation in a year's time before deciding to raise the rate to $7.50.

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