Jobless numbers soar
THE NUMBER of central Aucklanders receiving the unemployment benefit has nearly tripled in the last year, but a budgeting expert is warning the worst is yet to come.
Figures released last week by the Ministry of Social Development show 3265 people in the central city, Avondale, Mt Albert, Mt Eden, Onehunga, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Pt Chevalier and Three Kings were receiving the unemployment benefit in the year ending March, 2009.
That compares with 1171 people in the same areas receiving it at the same time last year.
But Auckland Central Budgeting Consultants manager Pam McKenzie says the most recent figures are the tip of the iceberg of what is expected to come as unemployed professionals try to find work and more people are made redundant.
“It’s just starting to hit us really. People who are being made redundant are coming to see us and asking what they should do.”
Figures show that those receiving some form of benefit in these central regions is 367 shy of 2004’s 17,412 recipients.
Of these, sickness and invalid beneficiary numbers continue to rise, with the number of sickness beneficiaries serviced by Auckland city’s centre nearly doubling from 468 to 827 over the last 12 months.
“More people are going on to the sickness benefit because of the stress of losing jobs,” says Ms McKenzie.
“With debt to pay off and families to support, the prospect of unemployment is making people physically ill.”
Although unemployment benefits from Auckland’s central centres have almost tripled in 12 months, they are still down 36 percent on 2004’s figures.
“It’s increased mainly because in good times people have taken on too much credit,” says Ms McKenzie.
“Now it’s creating financial stress as cars, homes and furnishings get repossessed.”
Ms McKenzie says she strongly recommends people seek budget advice before debt repayments go into arrears by working out on a piece of paper what their debts are and what income is coming in.
The government has also put in place a transitional assistance package for workers who are made redundant that provides up to $160 extra for those already receiving help.
“It’s a top-up for the unemployment benefit for 16 weeks in the hope they are able to get another job,” says Ms McKenzie.
The Ministry of Social Development has budgeted on as many as 70,000 people nationwide accessing the scheme over its two-year life span.
At the end of March 2009, 289,000 working aged people were receiving main social security benefits compared with 313,000 in March 2004 and 256,000 in March 2008.
Nationally figures show the number of people on the unemployment benefit was at its lowest level in March 2008 with fewer than 20,000 recipients.
Although this number has almost doubled in just a year, 10 years ago 144,895 were receiving financial assistance.
Minister of Social Development and Employment Paula Bennett says while more people continue to exit the labour force, the number of those participating is still at its second highest level ever.