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Minister's Smugness Premature

Minister's Smugness Premature

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today challenged the Labour Government's gloating over recent unemployment figures.

"Associate Social Services and Employment Minister Rick Barker is gloating over a 4.9 percent unemployment rate - defined by the Household Labour Force Survey - saying it's the lowest since 1988," said Dr Newman.

"Yet many countries are ditching the HLFS as a measure, since it understates unemployment. The HLFS does not count someone as unemployed if they are available for, but not actively seeking, work - meaning someone who has been on the dole for 10 years, but hasn't looked for a job, is counted as jobless, rather than unemployed. Similarly, a person on the dole who is actively seeking employment, but who can't begin work within a week, is recorded as jobless.

"The December HLFS states that, of the 172,600 jobless people surveyed, 95,275 were officially unemployed. If these are added to the 98,000 unemployed identified in the HLFS, that would result in a more realistic 9.7 percent unemployment rate.

"A growing number of countries have abandoned the misleading HLFS in favour of more accurate measures. Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxemburg have chosen to adopt more realistic measures, such as the number of registered unemployed.

"Even that measure adopted here would be more realistic: statistics produced from the Minister's own office show 122,697 people are receiving the unemployment benefit. That would produce an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.

"To add weight to the criticism of the HLFS is the fact that people are counted as unemployed if they work more than one hour a week - clearly ridiculous, as no one could live off the proceeds of one hour's work. A figure of 10 hours a week, as mooted by the Australian Chief Statistician, is much more realistic. If that measure were used, New Zealand's unemployment rate would double.

"Whichever way you look at it, the HLFS measure is a sham, and the Government is misleading the people of New Zealand by boasting about it," Dr Newman said.

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