A Ministry of Social Development report released yesterday shows that almost half of people going off the benefit returned to Work and Income within 18 months. Additionally, the report shows that a third of the people exiting a benefit are earning less than $1180 a month, and a large portion of people placed into low-level training going back into a benefit. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling for an end to jobseeker obligations as part of the review of the welfare system, as the sanctions do not contribute towards helping people find meaningful employment.
“The latest MSD report shows we have a benefit system where unemployed people are forced into low-wage employment, many facing their benefit cut completely if they don’t take the first job offered to them, no matter how unsuitable it may be for them”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“People on the jobseeker benefit with work obligations, despite making the largest proportion of people exiting the benefit, were just as likely to return to a benefit over a period of 18-months than those on the same benefit without work obligations. The work obligations place an unrelenting focus on finding work, despite a large portion of people going off the benefit being placed into unsustainable, low-wage, insecure employment”
“The sanctions for people on the jobseeker benefit are cruel, as are all other benefit sanctions. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling for an immediate end to sanctions on beneficiaries, as they do nothing but further entrench people in poverty and prevent them from meeting their aspirations in society.
“The Government’s Mana in Mahi scheme, an employers subsidy that pushes young people into low-wage employment, will not fundamentally address poverty levels either if jobseeker sanctions remain. In order for the Mana in Mahi scheme to work as intended, the Government needs to guarantee full-time hours worth of pay, a living wage, and the ability for people to choose whether the job they are going into genuinely meets their aspirations without facing benefit sanctions.
“If the Government wants to help people meet their aspirations, they first have to recognise that forcing people into unsuitable, low-wage employment while threatening them with a benefit sanction is not going to address poverty levels. Jobseeker sanctions ignore a job market where many people face casual work, low-wages, and regular exploitation. Additionally, the unrelenting focus on finding work ignores that people on the benefit already make meaningful contributions to their community by way of caregiving, volunteering, and other forms of work outside of wage labour.
“Ending sanctions on beneficiaries for not accepting the first job offered to them would help create a system where people can genuinely go into work that meets their needs and is more likely to sustain them off the benefit if that is what the person desires.”