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Hitting the mark on employment growth

Hitting the mark on employment growth, but challenges remain

The latest update of the government’s employment strategy shows that New Zealand is continuing to hit the mark in maximising job opportunities and creating the right conditions for employment growth, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

The report records solid job growth in the year to December 2002, with the number of people in employment rising by 44,400 to 1,886,000 workers – more that at any time in New Zealand’s history. The government developed New Zealand’s first employment strategy in 2000 to bring together into one framework its employment priorities and policies. The latest update marks progress against these priorities from July 2001 to December 2002.

Steve Maharey said while New Zealand has been experiencing strong job growth, there a still a number of challenges in the labour market.

“Job numbers are up and our unemployment and labour force participation rates are tracking very well in historical terms. In 2002: the number of people in employment rose by 44,000; the number of job seekers registered with the Ministry of Social Development fell by 12.1 percent and it assisted 52,922 people into stable employment; and New Zealand’s official unemployment rate fell to a 15-year low of 4.9 percent in the December 2002 quarter.

“However our future focus must stay on developing a highly-skilled and flexible workforce. As the update reports, New Zealanders’ qualifications have improved, but an estimated 10-17% of young people aged between 15 and 19 are still not taking part in formal education, work or training. Improving these results further is a priority for the government.

“This year we have amended the Employment Strategy to put more emphasis on securing sustainable employment for more New Zealanders. We want to take advantage of our growing economy to move job seekers into employment that will improve their economic independence, rather than simply focusing on getting them into any job.

. . / 2 “We have also introduced a goal to encourage more young people, mature workers, women, and people with disabilities to participate in the workforce. As demand for labour continues to grow in our economy we will increasingly need to depend on the ability of a wider range of people to participate in the workforce.

“The Employment Strategy is the key tool the government uses to ensure we foster the right conditions for employment growth and we maximise employment opportunities. It ensures that we keep our ‘eye’ on the employment ‘ball’ when decisions across a wide variety of portfolis are taken.

“Our challenge in the coming year is to weather the downturn being experienced internationally so that these results are repeated,” Steve Maharey said.

The Employment Strategy: Progress to Date July 2001 – December 2002 report is available online at http://www.dol.govt.nz/publication-view.asp?ID=141.

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