Job sit­u­a­tion causes headaches

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

For most peo­ple, hav­ing a job is ba­sic to their men­tal health and sense of so­cial well­be­ing.

Even so, hold­ing gov­ern­ments to ac­count for cre­at­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties has never been easy.

Even the most in­com­pe­tent gov­ern­ment can claim that some jobs were cre­ated on its watch, and by the time you sub­tract how many of those open­ings were needed merely to keep pace with the num­bers of young peo­ple en­ter­ing the job mar­ket, the po­lit­i­cal wa­ters are al­ready mud­died.

And that’s be­fore you con­sider what the pri­vate sec­tor could rea­son­ably be do­ing to hire more peo­ple, or whether job seek­ers are suf­fi­ciently mo­ti­vated and trained for those jobs that do ex­ist.

Mean­while, the global fi­nan­cial con­di­tions can be blamed for any­thing and ev­ery­thing.

As a con­se­quence, the cur­rent Gov­ern­ment has had plenty of room to hide from the re­cent avalanche of bad news about job losses.

Scores of jobs were scrapped last week alone in min­ing and alu­minium smelt­ing and food man­u­fac­tur­ing, in places from Bluff and Christchurch to Tau­ranga.

Pre­dictably, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill English blamed the global fi­nan­cial con­di­tions, and tried to ac­cen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive.

Some sec­tors, English claimed, are do­ing just fine and be­sides, the Key Gov­ern­ment has cre­ated 54,000 new jobs – which, in 3.5 years in of­fice, av­er­ages out at a less im­pres­sive 15,500 new jobs a year.

That’s hardly enough to meet the in­flux of new en­trants, let alone to spark a jobs re­cov­ery.

In fact, the 27.6 per cent un­em­ploy­ment rate for 15- to 19-yearolds is at its high­est point in more than 25 years, and global con­di­tions can hardly be blamed for the way New Zealand is fail­ing its young peo­ple.

Ac­cord­ing to the New Zealand In­sti­tute, the teenage share of our to­tal un­em­ploy­ment is – at 26.2 per cent – the high­est among all de­vel­oped coun­tries.

If the gov­ern­ment seems bereft of ideas on the job cre­ation front, so do its crit­ics.

New Zealand First’s Win­ston Peters and Labour’s David Shearer called for con­certed ac­tion to bring down the ex­change rate – which, to stretch an anal­ogy, is a bit like putting out a fire by call­ing for some­one to build a fire sta­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

The out­look is hardly en­cour­ag­ing, ei­ther.

The un­em­ploy­ment es­ti­mates un­til 2014 is­sued last month by the new Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment su­per- min­istry headed by Steven Joyce are, in fact, even gloomier than the fore­casts made by Trea­sury only a few months ago in the Bud­get.

Joyce, you might re­call, was ap­pointed with much fan­fare as the gov­ern­ment’s so-called “Jobs Czar” shortly elec­tion.

If he seems pes­simistic about the likely out­come of his own job cre­ation ef­forts, per­haps we should all be head­ing for the lifeboats. Or for Aus­tralia. Ar­guably, cut­ting state spend­ing (and jobs) in the teeth of a re­ces­sion was al­ways a bad idea.

Pri­vate en­ter­prise in New Zealand has rarely been able to cre­ate a cli­mate of op­por­tu­nity and growth all by it­self.

It largely re­lies for pros­per­ity on a healthy and ex­pand­ing pub­lic sec­tor.

In other words, the gov­ern­ment will have to show some eco­nomic lead­er­ship as well as po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship if to­day’s youth are ever go­ing to see a pos­i­tive fu­ture for them­selves in this coun­try.

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GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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