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.