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Shonky Unemployment Measure May Be Changed

Shonky Unemployment Measure May Be Changed

The Government is working on a new measure to better reflect New Zealand's true rate of unemployment, ACT Employment Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman revealed today.

"In a briefing to the Social Services Select Committee this week, the Ministry of Social Development admitted they had been designing a report to be released at the same time as the controversial household labour force survey (HLFS) to more accurately depict the true state of taxpayer-funded benefit dependence in New Zealand.

"This is good news. The HLFS significantly under-counts unemployment. It counts somebody on a benefit as "employed" even if they have only worked for one hour in the week in which the survey is undertaken - but does not count a beneficiary as "unemployed" if they have given up looking for a job. That's just crazy.

"It also hugely underreports the duration of unemployment - if someone was on a benefit for ten years but two years ago worked for a single hour, it classifies them as unemployed for two years, not ten.

"As a result, the HLFS may conclude that, say 5,000 people have been unemployed for more than ten years, whereas taxpayers may have been paying 40,000 people the dole for that time.

"The HLFS - designed by the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation - should be changed to a more honest measure. Setting the criteria for being classified as employed at ten hours a week rather than one - a move already suggested by statisticians in participating countries - would be a good start.

"I have asked the Department of Statistics' officials to inform our committee on how these changes will get onto the ILO agenda. Bringing more honesty into the international unemployment measure would be a great issue for New Zealand to take a lead on," Dr Newman said.

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