The political year has got off to a bad start for the Government with revelations that unemployment is on the rise.
The number of people on the dole was 124,000 in December 2017 and had dropped every year since 2010 under National’s careful economic management. It went up 10,000 in Labour’s first year to 134,000 in December 2018. It has gone up another 13,000 to 147,000 in December 2019. That is an increase of 19% or 23,000 in just two years.
Rising unemployment is bad for everyone. There is nothing worse for people as not being able to get work. Children do worse when neither Dad nor Mum are working. It is bad for tax payers who, under Labour, are having to fund dole payments for another 23,000 people.
The sharp increase in unemployment benefit numbers is the product of Labour’s poor economic policies. Business confidence has plummeted. Labour has been particularly tough on small business in imposing lots of extra costs and regulations, yet it is these that provide so many jobs in areas like Nelson.
It is no surprise that fewer employers are able to take on new staff. Other businesses are reducing staff to survive. The total number of jobs in New Zealand grew by 120,000 in 2016 and 2017 under National. This has dropped under Labour by two thirds to 40,000 in 2018 and 2019. This less than the number of school leavers and why youth unemployment is up 7,000.
Labour has also gone soft on requiring those on the dole to look for work or get into training. National had the Ministry of Social Development meeting regularly with those on the dole. The number of interviews has halved and are no longer compulsory.
Labour has also weakened the sanctions for people who make no attempt to get work or attend interviews. I have cases in Nelson where gang members are on the dole, actively dealing in drugs and who have no intention of getting work. These people should not be getting weekly dole payments funded by hard working law abiding New Zealanders.
Unemployment is often because people do not have the skills businesses need. I am concerned that nationalising NMIT will make it less connected to the skill needs of Nelson businesses.
I also worry about the high proportion of people unable to get work because of problems with drugs like meth and cannabis. I have been working to get more drug rehab programmes in Nelson so we can help these people get clean and get jobs. The Government is only going to make unemployment worse by making drugs easier to access.
Nelson’s unemployment benefit numbers are now 4.4% of the working age population. That is one in every 23 people. It is now the highest in the South Island and higher than Auckland. It is not a crisis like when I was first elected an MP in 1990. Labour then let unemployment get to over 10%. My worry is that it is on the increase. We need to do better.