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No focus on jobs from Welfare Working Group

Council of Trade Unions media release
EMBARGOED UNTIL 2.00pm 24 November 2010

No focus on jobs from Welfare Working Group

The options in the Welfare Working Group paper released today have far too much emphasis on blaming individuals for being on benefits and far too little on job creation and what is needed to keep people in employment, said the CTU. The number of people on unemployment benefit today is around 50,000 higher than May 2008 and that is due to the recession, the global financial crisis and the low priority the Government has placed on support for jobs.

Eileen Brown, CTU welfare spokesperson, said: “The more palatable options presented in the WWG paper are outweighed by those that take a harsher and more punitive approach to people on benefits and will make an already tough life even tougher. Over 131 pages, the Welfare Working Group has come up with an overwhelming list of options to reduce the number of people on benefits, ranging from some that make sense, to others that are draconian and breath-taking.”

“The paper leans strongly towards an insurance model, introducing heavier sanctions for people if they are not complying with benefit rules, and the paper argues that people on benefits need to take more personal responsibility for their situation.”

“The CTU has some different options. We will be emphasising a greater focus on creating good jobs, the necessity of the welfare system being supportive, with systems in place to successfully match people with work, training and learning opportunities. We support some suggestions such as early intervention when illness strikes, and the promotion of well-being at work.”

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“However, we have consistently said that there will be huge social costs with policies that effectively force single parents, usually mothers, into work when they have young children. Among the more extreme options is one obliging sole parents to work when their youngest child is one year old. Others include tackling child poverty by tying the benefit payments to a child’s attendance at school and meeting minimum child health standards.”

“Another disappointment is the lack of attention to the fact that many working people end up on benefits not because they want to, but because their work has created illness or stress. Conditions such as back pain, musculo-skeletal problems, anxiety and depression are strongly employment related.”

“New Zealand has a good and strong social welfare system and we are the envy of many countries. We are concerned about the view coming through that the system is broken and needs to be replaced with an insurance model or even a partial insurance model. That approach has been disastrous in the United States following the global financial crisis where unemployment insurance providing time limited benefits soon leaves people unsupported.”

“We certainly agree with the Welfare Working Group that paid work is one of the critical factors in New Zealanders having a good quality of life. But for that to happen there needs to be a stronger focus on job creation, improving wage levels and ensuring decent conditions of employment.”

ENDS

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