GUEST BLOG: Willie Jackson: We have an employment crisis that needs serious resourcing

By   /   November 28, 2017  /   12 Comments

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This matters because work without dignity is merely wage slavery with no quality of life and in a country with the type of leadership we have historically shown on so many progressive issues, it is unacceptable to me to see us go backwards on something as vital as quality employment.

Last week I outlined that we have a crisis in New Zealand employment with the real lived experiences of many Māori, Pasifika, Women, Students, Working Class, Migrants and peoples with disabilities not aligning with the glossy employment statistics.

This week as Minister, I want to outline what I believe are solutions to this crisis.

Let me first state that I don’t believe anything will work unless there is a collaborative approach across all agencies to the employment crisis that we are facing right now.

I believe we have to fund and resource and target some of our community organisations directly – not with crumbs, but with real funding and resourcing that can turnaround the problems that we have amongst Māori. There must be a real commitment to targeted funding, and funding community groups who have a proven record of achieving positive and real outcomes for Maori.

Since becoming Minister, I have been approached by so many groups who could be funded more than they are at the moment, and I want the opportunity to access those groups in South and West Auckland, along with the regions.

Beyond the immediate need to identify groups who can get meaningful and targeted employment up and running, we need to consider a Jobs Commission.

Telling individuals that it is their responsibility to find jobs or else face punitive welfare sanctions is pointless, damaging and counterproductive in the long run.

We need to be smarter.

Labour has put its own Commission in place in the past couple of years with some excellent results. It might be time again to set up another Commission serviced by government agencies to immediately set to work to understand and describe the current blockages to full employment and other labour market goals.

They will then provide advice to the Government, which could lead to the development of a NZ Employment Strategy as a “joined up” approach between Government and job creators. In a dynamic and changing labour market with many questions around the “future of work” confronting us, we also need to ensure that this Government is ready and able to respond to these issues and introduce a policy of “just transition” as an increasing number of workers lose jobs due to environmental and technology changes.

The Commission or Task Force should be small and reflect Government’s tripartite responsibilities under ILO conventions and responsibilities to Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi. A reference group should also be established representing the other sectors with an interest in Employment.

Why does any of this matter?

This matters because work without dignity is merely wage slavery with no quality of life and in a country with the type of leadership we have historically shown on so many progressive issues, it is unacceptable to me to see us go backwards on something as vital as quality employment.


First published in the Manukau Courier 

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  1. Peter Bradley says:

    This is simply not going to address the problem. Having commissions and funding community groups of course may help but it will not change the systemic and structural reasons that un-employment and poverty exist.
    In fact a certain level of unemployment is a managed setting in most economies and is used to control wage inflation – economics 101. The poverty and misery of the unemployed and under employed is not some accident of fate it is part of our economic policy and if unemployment drops below a certain percentage the Reserve Bank will be required to lift interest rates to increase un-employment.
    I suspect the minister knows this and for certain Grant Robertson knows this. So why is he blowing hot air in this article.
    The real solutions to ending poverty are for more radical and difficult to sell to the meritocracy obsessed NZ middle class. The Universal Basic Income (that means disconnecting a persons value from their work status), Free at the point of delivery Health care, Rent Controls and Housing WOFs, Mana Party type community investment in shared resources. All of that in addition to current investment in community groups and wrap around welfare services might make an actual difference. But it does require major attitudinal shifts which the minister should be leading on and arguing for.
    And don’t forget taxes – the Labour Party has to start arguing for higher taxation. It needs to make the case or the election victory is going to mean nothing. The NZ middle class is selfish, economically ignorant and has less foresight then a paddock of cows. The NZ Labour Party must change that as a number one priority.

    • Sam Sam says:


      You’ll penalise innovators because some people have skills that have become obsolete. Re your whole unemployment thing. Nah man, we got to get it done. Events are starting to overwhelm and New Zealand is behind technologically and logistically.

      It’s like saying Henry Ford and the other early mass-producers of cars should be forced to support out of work saddlemakers just because horses were going out of fashion.

      It’s not holding back on anything. And I’m like, super pro UBI. But even I know it’s fantasy right now and won’t be enacted for a long long time.

      • Peter Bradley says:

        How does providing an economic floor through which we prevent people suffering in extreme poverty stop other economic activity from taking place? Why is humiliating poverty and WINZ harassment of the poor a pre-requisite for innovators?
        “Oh I can’t get up an innovate or start a business because people far worse off than I am are getting assistance”.
        It’s a myth that just because the well off have to pay more in taxes and re-distribute more of their wealth to the “undeserving poor” they’ll all give up their middle class life styles and go on the dole.
        I agree it’s a long way off and that’s why we need serious and genuine leadership on this from Minister Jackson and his colleagues now in government.

        • Sam Sam says:

          Some people prefer paying people to serve food and making money out of it.

          We had a shortage of skilled workers during many periods of economic boom. Did you somehow miss the gigantic public health deficit we’ve had in medical assistant workers? (Carpenters, physio, dental assistant and all that. As aside from doctors and nurses) Real wages hasn’t been increasing because the increase has gone to paying for more expensive affordable housing instead. Real wealth has absolutely increased.

          Much of the reason for the stagnant wages can also be attributed to more women joining the workforce and immigration. This will not last forever.

          UBi will absolutely remove many workers from the workforce. The one time someone tried a UBI even a tiny(about $100/month) monthly stipend decreased female work hours by 5% and male work hours by 1%. A UBI would see a large percentage of workers leaving the workforce or cutting their hours. And this isn’t what the Labour Party is about. Infact there are huge projects around New Zealand in desperate need of Labour and capital. Something like rape crises should probably be stood up straight away. Or fund police to do there god dam job. See what I mean?

          So the real question is additional to this…, why then do men who have the same circumstances pursue activities like this and woman don’t? So please. Educate me.

    • MattyGee says:

      Good reply PB! I agree, lower the lower tax bracket (nothing stopping Labour from doing this) and remove GST on fresh fruit and vegetables. This can easily be off-set by a tax on high-sugar content foods. And make zero- hour employment contracts illegal.

      • Thomas says:

        Peter, am I right that the primary goal of UBI would be to reduce poverty?
        Recently I read an interesting article written by somebody obviously very familiar with the German social system. His conclusion was that an UBI would reduce poverty problems for just a small fraction of poor people. He thinks that the biggest problem for poor families is not having too less money but not being able to organize their financials and their daily life.
        In Germany there has been in fact something like an UBI for decades already, called Social Help. It includes rental fees, school fees, daily expenses (all for basic needs only, of course). It turned out that people often lose their home although they have got the rental fee sponsored by Sozialamt. But didn’t pay the rental fee. Instead, they spend the money for Alcohol, gambling or drugs. Same with school fees.
        (Quote: Some parents are not even able to sign and return a application form filled-out by me already so their children could get 250EUR to attend a school trip. The teacher would need to send an application directly to Sozialamt.)
        I don’t know for what percentage the situation would be (or is) similar in NZ. But it should be taken into close consideration.

  2. Michelle says:

    The fact is our last government knew we had any ageing population
    (predominently Pakeha) Now did they invest in the people who would make up the bulk of the working age population (mostly Maori & PI) these demographics have been known for sometime. Instead they interfered with the market and brought in a big cheap pool of mostly foreign workers to drive down wages. And who misses out and who benefits from this type of policy? Then the gnats got rid of night schools for second chance leaners made it harder for many to go to University, changed the education system without proper research, undermined the teachers so no one wants to be a teacher, cut the TIA, and generally made it much harder for too many people to climb the ladder. All this from a group who benefitted hugely from past government policies created to help those who feel through the cracks or just needed a leg up. Now we hear the same old rhetoric of state dependency, people making bad choices and too many not helping themselves. And all this from a government and their followers who spent millions on consultants, sold our assets, wasted money on pet projects like the 25 million flag, Saudi sheep deal no trade deal , discrediting state servants and paying out afterwards, handing out knighthoods, tapping there mates on the shoulder for cushy jobs, turning a blind eye to us being a tax haven.

  3. savenz says:

    Bring back on the job training! Seriously you can do a free course on tiling in a few hours, prisoners are training to be carpenters and building houses in jail, there used to be the old schemes from councils to have ground keepers and the like to mow the lawns, on the job training for electricity linesmen like in the old days with the electricity board and actually care about people who CURRENTLY live in this country and upskill them with PRACTICAL skills that the DON’T do a PAID course on and they are PAID to do.

    Stop the fruit pickers, dairy workers and chefs being imported in, instead look at WHY locals who used to do the work for 100 years now suddenly can’t seem to be trusted with it.

    Is it lack of accomodation, the insecurity and low pay of the work, the difficulty in getting back on WINZ so not worth bothering to try? Who Knows? Personally much of it has become a scam with people being exploited and employers being paid $20k for the job and residency.

    Bring back practical skills in schools and run a balanced curriculum. Get rid of National Standards and putting 5-12 yo on the scrap heap as ‘failures’.

    Run proper well rounded courses in schools. Bring back balance so that kids are not stressed out and mentally ill. Art, sports, music, drama (bring back the school play that’s been cancelled in many schools for years and replaced by paid for drama lessons), as well as Maths, reading and writing. We have too many push button stressed out kids coming out of schools who have been taught to sit still and make a few hours work last all day and education is not about learning but about passing tests.

    Then the kids come out into the work force and are told modern kids don’t have initiative and just sit around. Doh!

    That’s the modern school system producing the low initiative IYI (intellectual yet idiot) class who reduce productivity and innovation in this country. Any practically or movement is knocked out of them by the age of 8 in keeping with the ‘safe’ school practises and classroom management.

    On top of allowing a balanced non hierarchical curriculum allow work for kids like in old days. People I know picked fruit and veg as teenagers. Nowadays health and safety would ban it probably. Which is a shame because it teaches kids valuable skills, hard work, punctuality, and being respectful and starting on the bottom rung no matter who you are. Funny how education makes more sense when you just worked your arse off all day to earn a pittance.

    We have created Peter Pan kids who are mentally ill, not active and don’t understand real life, let alone working really hard for a $. Doing paid courses is not helping them. Real life might.

    • savenz says:

      P.S. I am in no way implying that teachers are to blame -it’s the ministry of education set down by the government that have created this curriculum crisis and putting too much emphasis on paperwork, testing and safety – turning schools into giant babysitting centres churning out stressed out unbalanced kids – winners and losers – not a balanced cross section of kids ready to go into society as writers, doctors, plumbers and chefs. Likewise tertiary has become about money and fees not the curriculum. Churning out graduates of varying quality many who are not going to be very good at whatever they graduated in.

      I’m not sure Labour’s 1 free year of tertiary is going to work either, because decent secure jobs are not there for youth once they graduate and many are unsatisfied with working if they do find a job. It doesn’t seem to be what they expect after our education system has prepared them for in many cases and NZ has some terrible managers – graduates of the neoliberal school – Pike River, Talley’s, these scammer’s in the DHB’s and transport sectors whose activities of fraud and expenses claims are coming to light. Not exactly motivating for employee’s.

      That’s a society problem. Sadly not being addressed and shoved under the carpet and using immigration to mask it instead of looking at the NZ education, then lack of decent jobs then bad management in this country.

  4. Thomas says:

    You plan to establish a Commission that shall at first find out the reasons for the current unemployment rate. You said Labour has had a similar Commission in place for years already. What exactly where their “excellent results”? The most important point (reasons on unemployment) obviously is still open, which is not so excellent for a Commission in place for years. What makes you think a new Commission will find the reasons for unemployment? Will they ask different questions this time?

    I’m fully with you that a change is needed, as soon as possible. Targeted funding of communities might be one way, but let’s talk about the targets first before wasting money. Community funding will probably not create jobs on long term. But if it helps to get rid of gang crime, drugs and violence it would certainly increase the quality of life.
    So you may consider to fund community groups which work on that anyway. One group is called Police another group is called Teacher.

  5. Thomas says:

    What is your point with that “dignity” thing? How do you define “work with dignity”?
    Is a 40-hours job with $20/h “with dignity” and a 10h job with $20/h is not?
    How about a 40h job with $9/h?
    I guess, a 10h job with $9/h is dignity-wise a night mare then?
    Weird, what do you tell people working on voluntary basis about their dignity and quality of life?

    Many people believe that work is just one factor in “quality of life”, besides social and public safety, family, friends, clean environment, hobbies…
    You don’t measure dignity in dollar, do you? Please, don’t tell me money or poverty has anything to do with dignity of a worker. I would consider that as an insult.
    (It might have something to do with the employer’s dishonor in some cases.)
    Maybe you should drop that dignity bubble and focus on facts and verifiable results. Since so many people blame the employment statistics, how about a better one as soon as possible, more close to reality? It would also help to verify your results.
    You will have positive results, worth to be verified, won’t you?

  6. Yvonne Lee Simpson says:

    Can we convince the Tribal authorities to invest more in their people as well as the government?