School of hard shocks

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - ROB STOCK MONEY MAT­TERS rob.stock@fair­fax­me­

Don’t leave your child in any doubt about what school is for, and why it’s im­por­tant for them to suc­ceed.

What­ever their am­bi­tions in life, chil­dren have no choice but to at­tend school be­tween the ages of six and 16. Not suc­ceed­ing is both a waste of their time, and means they have a high chance of liv­ing a pen­ni­less, hand-to-mouth ex­is­tence.

Just how shock­ingly bad it is for chil­dren’s fu­tures to leave school with no qual­i­fi­ca­tion is shown by data I stum­bled over when re­search­ing un­em­ploy­ment last week.

I’d been strug­gling to un­der­stand why it of­ten takes peo­ple so long to find a job when the un­em­ploy­ment rate is just 5.7 per cent.

I was hav­ing a Don­ald Trump mo­ment, find­ing it hard to be­lieve the of­fi­cial job­less rate. I started ask­ing ques­tions.

The ques­tions took me to the ’’un­der­util­i­sa­tion’’ rate, which doesn’t make head­lines like the un­em­ploy­ment rate.


That’s a shame, be­cause an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 5.7 per cent would seem to sug­gest we live in a work­ers’ par­adise, which clearly we don’t.

The un­der­util­i­sa­tion rate in­cludes not only the of­fi­cially un­em­ployed, but also part-time work­ers who want more hours, peo­ple want­ing work who aren’t avail­able to start to­mor­row, and peo­ple not looking for work as ac­tively as the Govern­ment be­lieves they should be.

And, in June last year, it was 12.8 per cent.

Who are the peo­ple counted in this tragic statis­tic?

The easy an­swer is or­di­nary peo­ple; peo­ple with hopes and dreams; peo­ple with fam­i­lies to sup­port; peo­ple with in­comes they are strug­gling to live on. But here’s the thing: there’s a heck of a lot more of peo­ple from cer­tain groups be­ing ‘‘un­der­utilised’’ by em­ploy­ers.

Over­all, New Zealand doesn’t rate too badly.

At 12.8 per cent, New Zealand’s un­der­util­i­sa­tion rate in June last year was lower than av­er­age of 14.1 per­cent in all of the OECD club of rich coun­tries against which we like to com­pare our­selves. Aus­tralia’s was 21.8 per cent. The UK’s was 11.2 per cent.

But some of us are liv­ing with a labour mar­ket that is far more like one of those hot Euro­pean coun­tries that gets called a bas­ket­case, has a national debt that makes its fi­nance min­is­ter cry, and which peo­ple only want to go to on hol­i­day, not to live.

The un­der­util­i­sa­tion rate for Maori was 22.8 per cent. That’s about the same as Por­tu­gal, which has a head­line un­em­ploy­ment rate that’s dou­ble New Zealand’s.

For Pa­cific Is­land peo­ple the un­der­util­i­sa­tion rate was 18.8 per cent. That’s the same as Turkey’s.

For peo­ple with no qual­i­fi­ca­tions, the un­der­util­i­sa­tion rate was 30.4 per cent. That’s higher even than Spain and Greece.

This is why fam­i­lies need to take their chil­dren’s school years se­ri­ously, and talk to their chil­dren about why it mat­ters.

Chil­dren need to know this stuff. They thirst for knowl­edge. It’s their fu­ture. Ed­u­ca­tion is the foun­da­tion for that fu­ture.

I com­pletely agree that peo­ple can suc­ceed in life with­out pass­ing school cert, but why make life harder than it needs to be?


Learn­ing is a child’s job. Par­ents are re­spon­si­ble for it hap­pen­ing.

Ed­u­ca­tion is the foun­da­tion for a wealthy life. It may be elec­tion year here, but the pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump con­tin­ues to suck al­most all the oxy­gen out of the political air.

So far, sur­pris­ingly lit­tle ef­fort has been put into trac­ing the im­pli­ca­tions for New Zealand of the stream of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders and tweets pour­ing from the Oval Of­fice.

As promised, Pres­i­dent Trump has tor­pe­doed the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade pact, and is al­ready busily bul­ly­ing Ja­pan into a bi­lat­eral deal on US terms.

Mean­while, Aus­tralia and New Zealand con­tinue to act if a head­less TPP with­out ei­ther Ja­pan or the US is still worth talk­ing about.

For now, Prime Min­is­ter Bill English mainly seems re­lieved to have sur­vived his 15-minute phone call from the new Pres­i­dent with­out pro­vok­ing any vis­i­ble or au­di­ble dam­age to US/ NZ re­la­tions.

Un­for­tu­nately, New Zealand’s in­ter­ests will not re­main im­mune to the con­se­quences of Trump’s as­cent to power.

The White House plans, for ex­am­ple, to scrap the safe­guards on net neu­tral­ity.

This de­vel­op­ment should con­cern any­one who be­lieves the in­ter­net is an essen­tial so­cial util­ity that should be kept af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble.

Equally alarm­ing are the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans to cozy up to Big Pharma by re­duc­ing the reg­u­la­tory role of the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

This is an agency that many or­gan­i­sa­tions world­wide – in­clud­ing Phar­mac – rely on to as­sess the safety of medicines.

Other Trump­isms have been harder to de­tect.

On Jan­uary 25, Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive order called ‘‘En­hanc­ing Public Safety In the In­te­rior of the United States.’’

Sec­tion 14 con­tained this gem:

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