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Increased employment doesn’t tell the whole story

Increased employment doesn’t tell the whole story

Statistics New Zealand has released its latest employment figures showing an increase in the percentage of New Zealanders in employment. But there’s more to the story and for the sake of the wellbeing of every New Zealander it is important the whole picture is presented.
The first issue for workers is that while UNemployment has fallen steadily in the last nine years, UNDERemployment has increased and women are overrepresented within this. Underemployment includes workers who’re highly skilled, but working in low paying jobs or low skilled jobs, and part time workers who’d prefer to be full time work.

The total underemployed figure (including those actively seeking employment) is 114,900, with 9000 less people than the last quarter. While in the short term this looks like good news, it is a small change in what has been an overall worsening trend, especially considering the last quarter figures were the highest rate of underemployment on record (total underemployment 122,000, this figure had a quarterly increase of 7000).

FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga says members constantly struggle to gain enough employment with companies preferring to hire part time workers. In some sectors the 30 hour week is the new 40 hour week, and that’s not enough to pay rent let alone buy food.

To add to these figures, wages are not keeping up with productivity, otherwise known as the hourly output of a country’s economy. It is the amount of a country’s income, or real Gross Domestic Product (the values of goods and services produced by a country in one year), compared to an hour of labour. For fair wages we’d expect to see these figures mirroring productivity, but they’re not.

“The prevalence of legitimised insecure employment schemes such as labour hire, casualisation, and contractual work is deeply concerning. These are all forms of short term work arrangements that aim to lower wages.”

The national underemployment rate for the first quarter of 2018 is 4.4, with women well overrepresented in this area, the underemployment rate for females is 6.4. For both genders the national figure for the number of people underemployed and actively seeking more hours remains high at 64,600.

Mr Maga says women are disproportionately affected in those who’re underemployed and actively seeking more hours.
“It’s 21,100 men compared to 45,500 women, so the number of women wanting more work is over double that of men, why are women not gaining employment at the rates men are? Our members are telling us they’re just not getting the hours they need, especially in retail.”


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