Job­less fig­ures are grim read­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

If the Gov­ern­ment could take any­thing pos­i­tive from last week’s un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures, it would be to thank its lucky stars that those job­less num­bers are be­ing racked up in the year af­ter the last elec­tion, not in the year be­fore the next one.

At 7.3 per cent, the un­em­ploy­ment rate has hit lev­els not seen since the end of the 20th cen­tury.

The num­bers of job­less – the un­em­ployed plus those who have ba­si­cally given up ac­tively look­ing for work – stands at nearly 300,000.

That’s be­fore you start count­ing the un­der-em­ployed where the fig­ure now stands at close to 400,000, an in­crease of 150,000 since the Key Gov­ern­ment took of­fice in 2008.

And all this is be­fore the up­com­ing wel­fare re­forms push more peo­ple out on to the job mar­ket in search of non-ex­is­tent jobs.

In re­sponse, last week Prime Min­is­ter John Key sug­gested the sta­tis­tics must be wrong, since they didn’t co­in­cide with his ‘‘anec­do­tal ev­i­dence’’.

Four years af­ter the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, in­ter­na­tional events can hardly be blamed, ei­ther.

In Aus­tralia, un­em­ploy­ment is hold­ing steady at only 5.4 per cent. If Aus­tralia wasn’t there to siphon off so many of our job seek­ers, the job­less num­bers here would be as­tro­nom­i­cal.

Our jobs cri­sis, how­ever, is un­likely to change overnight the per­cep­tion that Na­tional is a bet­ter man­ager of the econ­omy.

An un­der­ly­ing faith ex­ists that the po­lit­i­cal party seen as be­ing closer to Big Com­merce will be more will­ing and bet­ter able to man­age the econ­omy for the pub­lic good. Sim­i­lar per­cep­tions ex­ist in the United States.

Un­til polling day in an elec­tion sup­pos­edly fought on the state of the econ­omy, vot­ers kept telling poll­sters that the Republicans were more com­pe­tent at manag­ing the econ­omy but they then voted for Barack Obama by a rea­son­ably com­fort­able mar­gin.

Eco­nomic faith seems to have be­come dis­con­nected from po­lit­i­cal ac­tion.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, one has to ask on what ra­tio­nal ba­sis do vot­ers – here, in the United States and in Bri­tain – form the be­lief that the cen­tre-right has a bet­ter grasp of the is­sues of eco­nomic man­age­ment?

One rea­son, of course, is that the cen­tre-right tends to have had more busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence.

Yet in the case of New Zealand, John Key’s ex­pe­ri­ence with Mer­rill Lynch, Steven Joyce’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the ra­dio in­dus­try and Bill English’s farm­ing back­ground do not en­tail much hands-on knowl­edge of job cre­ation.

If any­thing – and as with Repub­li­can hope­ful Mitt Rom­ney – their cu­mu­la­tive busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence has had more to do with cut­ting labour costs and job num­bers, and with tight­en­ing the econ­omy, than with ex­pand­ing it.

The min­is­ter in the fir­ing line is the Gov­ern­ment’s so-called jobs czar, Joyce, whose new megamin­istry was meant to co-or­di­nate the skills train­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and plan­ning needed to en­able job cre­ation in a mod­ern econ­omy.

There have been few signs of progress.

Joyce tends to blame the Op­po­si­tion for op­pos­ing min­ing and oil ex­plo­ration – as if this was the rea­son for the jobs van­ish­ing from man­u­fac­tur­ing and for the prob­lems fac­ing ex­porters.

Na­tional should be feel­ing con­cerned that, like Rom­ney, it risks be­ing seen as fo­cused on the needs of top in­come earn­ers and out of touch with work­ing fam­i­lies.

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