It’s been an amazing year as Minister of Employment, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the many tireless workers and dreamers and inspirers I am fortunate enough to meet up and down this great country of ours every single day who are passionate about helping all New Zealanders, from every walk of life, get ahead with work that matters.
I am lucky to engage with talented folk, who are as driven as I am, to see jobs with dignity mean something. I’ve been a working man all my life, from the floor of the meat works to the Marae of community organisations, and I know the importance to a person’s self-esteem to be able to provide for yourself and your whānau.
This year has also seen one of the lowest unemployment rates in a decade drop to 3.9% and we now have record employment for Māori and Women. In the NEETs (not in employment, education or training) area, we have been able to reduce the numbers significantly from 80,000 to 70,000.
We as a Government responded well to my mate Shane Jones’ challenge of getting the neph’s off the couch, and have been able to reduce the NEETs numbers through a project called He Poutama Rangatahi which has impacted significantly in the regions. We have partnered up with organisations who refused to give up on their young people, and we have got the positive results that this Government has been looking for.
This year we were also able to roll out the Mana in Mahi work programs to help get young people into employment. It’s helped 18 to 24 year olds who are not in training or jobs, or who have been on the dole for three months or more to get into apprenticeships by paying the employer the equivalent of one year’s benefit and they have to top that up to the minimum wage.
We started a pilot programme and are about to expand that to 4,000 placements around the country.
Giving our young people the chance to feel pride in work and a sense of achievement is one of the greatest gifts we can give them and this Government is focused on encouraging that positive change with carrots, not sticks.
I believe most Kiwis are good bosses and have a genuine concern for the welfare of their workers and by partnering up with Government, we can build a work force that has a basic respect that gives to both.
There is still more work to be done, we still need to ensure that respect is built upon solid values that won’t evaporate the moment an economy turns sour, but as I look back on our first year, I am proud of the direction we are going in and the achievements we have gained.
I want to wish you and your whanau a very Merry Christmas and that you enjoy your well-deserved break this holiday season. Spend time with those that matter and enjoy our summer.
Meri Kirihimete me Ngā Mihi o te Tau Hou ki a koutou katoa.
Willie Jackson is the Minister for Employment