One of the many big problems National is failing to resolve is the lack of jobs, as they provide a 14-year high in unemployment – even after exporting 180,000 Kiwis to Australia under this government. Indeed if we added them in, the unemployment rate would double to 13.8%.
It seems hard to remember a mere 5 years ago before this government with less than 80,000 unemployed – noticeably less than half the current number, even if we don’t include the new Australian residents.
More than 40,000 of those job losses have been in manufacturing. And as it’s been found in various research that manufacturing jobs have a job multiplier of 2.9 (higher for high-tech manufacturing), that means about 80,000 other indirect job losses. Combined that’s over 2/3rds of our unemployment rate, just by getting back to where we were when National took office.
It makes sense to have a manufacturing strategy. Part of that has to be tools for a lower and much less volatile exchange rate. No matter what the Herald and Steven Joyce say, that exchange rate has driven manufacturers off-shore and is driving more of them there. Skellerup, Fisher & Paykel, Gallaghers, and many more – successful NZ companies that are exporting jobs instead of products.
It makes no sense for us to have the 9th most traded currency in the world. And if we want to export anything other than milk powder (and there’s only so much milk powder we can make) it makes no sense for the dollar to be trading at over US80c. The US, UK, Japan, Switzerland have all printed money to devalue their currency – we’re not on a level playing field. Singapore and China have always manipulated their currency to advantage their exporters, and strengthen their manufacturers and jobs – the playing field has never been even.
So what do we do about it? Sit back, hands-off and tell exporters and manufacturers to work harder and smarter (as though they’re not already)? Tell them that working some of the longest hours in the world isn’t enough? Let them export jobs instead of products, as keeping the exchange rate high so that TVs are cheap is just too important?
That’s what I expect from National, but I’m also sure that the combined opposition manufacturing inquiry will come up with better ideas. And I’m looking forward to seeing them enacted after 2014, and our backbone manufacturing businesses flourishing again – and along with them: jobs and wages.