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.