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$153 million package to get people into work

Hon Steve Maharey
Minister of Social Services and Employment

$153 million package to get people into work

Budget 2003 contains a $152.8 million package over four years to help people move into the paid workforce.

Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said the budget built on work in the Labour-led government’s three previous budgets to remove the barriers preventing people from taking up paid work, to actively match job seekers with job opportunities and to improve the information employers and job seekers have about skill and labour needs in the economy.

“Unemployment has been at historically low levels in New Zealand, leading to the emergence of skill and labour shortages. Employment initiatives in this budget continue our Future Directions welfare reform programme and focus on supporting people to move from benefits to paid work to help plug these gaps.

“The maximum number of subsidised childcare hours increases from 37 to 50 hours per week from 1 July, 2003 to improve the support to low-income parents taking up full time work.

“The income thresholds for Family Support and the Child Tax Credit are also being raised from 1 April, 2004 making this assistance available to more families.

“These measures, worth $59 million over four years, signal the government’s clear intention to make significant improvements to benefit and tax based family income assistance in the 2004 budget,” Steve Maharey said.

Other initiatives to assist groups who find it difficult to obtain employment are:
- $21.2 million to implement the Auckland Metropolitan Migrant and Refugee Strategy. This will involve developing and expanding specialised employment coaching programmes, multi-lingual services and skill development programmes. Moving greater numbers of migrants into work will greatly assist in meeting skill and labour shortages in the Auckland region. New funding of $894,000 will also improve access to English as a second language training for these job seekers;
- $52 million in reprioritised funding for Work and Income to better tailor training to job seekers to the needs of employers; and
- $4 million to promote to employers the employment potential of youth, mature and migrant job seekers.

“Funding of $1.5 million is allocated to the Department of Labour to work with industries and regions experiencing labour and skill shortages. And the Community Employment Organisations scheme, which had been a pilot, now has on-going funding over the next four years of $8.6 million.

“$5.7 million is being invested to improve information on the labour market. Internet-based resources, WorkSite and KiwiCareers, will be further developed; a survey will be conducted of technology use in the work place; and the long-term success of employment programmes will be evaluated.

“A range of measures is also planned to protect the integrity of the benefit system including new data matches and earlier intervention to prevent overpayments. Funding of $17.6 million has been allocated to establish this programme which is expected to generate savings of $55 million over the next four years,” Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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