Thursday, April 27, 2006

Employment options

I realised I hadn't been spending nearly enough time attacking the Labour party for their general evil right-wing tendancies. I'm sorry I've been distracted. I am planning on writing about immigration sometime soon. But I had to write about the government's latest benefit proposals. First a quick primer for non-New Zealanders. The main categories of benefits in New Zealand are unemployment, sickness (for those who are too sick to work), invalid (for those who have long-term health conditions that mean they're unable to work) and domestic purposes benefit (for those raising children). The unemployment benefit is work tested, and there are penalties if you don't meet certain criteria, it is also paid at a lower level than the other benefits. In 1991 the National government cut all benefits significantly and Labour has still not reversed (that doesn't have anything to do with my point, but it's kind of a reflex). Anyway onto the press release:

Comprehensive employment help will be available to all Work and Income clients regardless of their benefit type under a new case management approach launched today by Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope.
Sounds just like hugs and puppies doesn't it, isn't it nice of the government to make these services available to other categories of beneficiaries.

I don't know what they mean by 'available', when they say the new service will include: "WRK4U seminars that provide jobseekers with information on local labour market conditions, vacancies, employment services and income support entitlements and responsibilities."

There may be people who find interesting and useful information at the WRK4U seminar. It's possible that the rumours I've heard that the whole purpose of the seminar is to kill people from boredom, and therefore reduce the number of beneficiaries, are wildly exaggerated. But at the moment it's not just 'available' for those on the unemployment benefit, it's pretty much compulsory. There should be no consequences for people on the sickness benefit or the DPB (or the unemployment benefit, but that's another rant) if they avoid WINZ's 'employment services'. Otherwise the state is compelling people who have a societally recognised reason not to work in paid employment at that time to do things that the state believes will help them return to work at some future time.

Even if it's optional the hard sell on employment for the solution to everyone's needs is worrying. If you're sick you need to make decisions based on what will make you well, not what will make your case-manager happy.

There is actually a term for this and it's called 'reserve army of labour'. If unemployment is low that drives up the cost of labour. So it's useful to have a pool of people who are usually out of the labour market, but can be dragged into the labour market in time of scarcity. Women have long filled this function (and continue to do so), but I think it's a particularly classy way of treating sick and disabled people as well.

PS: The press release boasts that for the first time single parents and sick people will have "employment as an option from initial contact". So that's what my friend needed as soon as she'd finished labour, to know that employment was an option (do you know if your on the sickness benefit due to pregnancy and change over to the DPB because you give birth, they give you a weeks stand-down the week the babies born). I think people actually know how much employment is an option for them already, and the fact that they're at WINZ applying for the DPB, sickness, or invalid benefit, shows that it's not the best option.

11 comments:

  1. Its all in the execution really. if its not a hard sell, and people are given the information they need to make informed decisions without being pressured into something beyond their capabilities, then this is the right thing to do.

    However, is this just an example of the Government trying to placate cynics out there on the right who point the finger at the distinct correalation between a falling unemployment rate and the rise in other beneficiary categories?

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  2. It's not just beyond their capabilities. WRK4U and Worktrack suck in a really insulting and boring way. If it's about making people jump through hoops, then it'll make their life worse. Plus introducing employment for someone who has just had to quit their job because of illness could have really negative affects.

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  3. "evil, right-wing Labour party"?

    You mean the Labour party who:

    * removed the ECA and brought in the ERA
    * gave unions back their rights
    * have significantly reduced unemployment
    * have significantly increased the minimum wage for workers

    not saying I disagree, but be careful with those labels if you want us to actually try and work with you.

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  4. Maria the ERA is basically the ECA with access rights, for all the language of good faith.

    Unions still don't have their rights, most importantly they don't have the right to strike.

    I'll give you the minimum wage increases, but that's virtually the only progressive thing Labour has done since the Alliance was its coalition partner.

    Personally I don't have any desire to work with the Labour party. There are some issues (primarily youth rates I guess), which I hope people in the Labour party will work on. But if that's dependant on me not thinking that the Labour party is right-wing, then it's not going to happen

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  5. George Darroch10:17 am

    Well, I tend to agree with nick on this one actually.

    I think that the biggest risk with these (and we'd be blind to think otherwise) is that when National and their cronies get back into power eventually, they'll simply change the tone of Work and Income and use this framework helpfully established for them to force those receiving benefits to work.

    That said, it's on a rare occasion that I've ever gone into Work and Income and been treated like a human being. If I ever have to use their services I try as hard as possible to go to one in a middle class suburb where you wont get pariah status...

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  6. >do you know if your on the sickness benefit due to pregnancy and change over to the DPB because you give birth, they give you a weeks stand-down the week the babies born

    If that is true (which I assume it is) it is utterly appalling. Particularly when you consider that if you have a job you get 12 (or is it 14) weeks of paid parental leave from when the baby is born because having babies is very expensive and parents should be supported by the state in this important life event. What the stand down period says is that if you don't have a job then obviously you somehow need less support and can easily cope with a week with no income. And all I can say to that is WTF!?!

    To me that is absolutely unconscionable. I think I feel a letter writing campaign coming on.

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  7. That's true Maria, ever since Labour's been in government unemployment has dropped by 30%.

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  8. "There should be no consequences for people on the sickness benefit or the DPB (or the unemployment benefit, but that's another rant) if they avoid WINZ's 'employment services'. Otherwise the state is compelling people who have a societally recognised reason not to work in paid employment at that time to do things that the state believes will help them return to work at some future time."

    What do you mean by "societally" recognised? There is considerable divergence of thought about when, for instance, a single parent should rejoin the workforce.

    You are against the state "compelling" people to work. But the state compels people to pay taxes. The system you approve of uses force against some and not against others. You are inconsistent.

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  9. Now, Lindsay. I recall a few years back when Internal Affairs sent an email to the librarians' listserv to let us know that if we had this particular book on shelves where anyone under 18 could get at it, we'd better shift it to where they couldn't. I wrote back to them to let them know this particular librarian thought they could stick their demand up their collective arse. And they sent a nice message back telling me that by virtue of being the "Office of Film and Literature Classification" and the "Department of Internal Affairs", constituted by a democratically-elected NZ govt, their pronouncements were essentially the pronouncements of New Zealand society, regardless of any anti-censorship librarians' views on the matter. So there you have it - by virtue of being on a sickness benefit or the DPB, your status is essentially a pronouncement of New Zealand society - in eother words, "societally recognised". I hope this clears it up for you.

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  10. Thanks psycho milt:-) Did you shift the book?

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  11. My library didn't stock it! I'm such a mouthy git that I didn't bother to let such a trivial issue stand in the way of butting in - but then, at least I'm self-aware enough to realise what a wanker I am...

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