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On the scrapheap

Written By: - Date published: 3:54 pm, April 15th, 2008 - 30 comments
Categories: economy, labour, national, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,


This graph shows the number of people employed in New Zealand, and employment would have been had the number of people with a job as a portion of the working-age population had remained steady at 76% as it was before 1987. Look what happened during the rightwing economic revolution from 1987 to 1999 (when National was kicked out). Employment not only didn’t keep up with the growing population, the number of people with jobs actually decreased. Once Labour got to power, the level of employment started growing rapidly, making up for lost ground. Things are now back to how they used to be.

Look at that employment gap, from 1987 to 2003, between the number of people with jobs and the number who could have been working. That’s hundreds of thousands of people that the Right chucked on the scrapheap. Over those years, a total of two million person-years of employment were lost; that’s as if everyone in New Zealand was out of work for a year.

No wonder we started to fall behind in the 1990s, we were letting our best assets, our people, go to waste while National and its mates split up and sold off our major companies to asset-strippers. Two million person-years of work wasted when they could have been building roads, railways, better housing, hospitals, or working as medical staff, teachers, working to create a better, more productive New Zealand. Worse, rather than being employed people were forced to live on benefits, some turned to crime; families suffered.

Too much of our potential was wasted under National in the 1990s. We can’t let that happen again.

30 comments on “On the scrapheap”

  1. Steve Pierson 1

    pre-empting our rightwing friends who would rather deal in trival matters than the substantive issue: the graph’s axis doesn’t go to 0 because we’re looking at change and rates of change over time, not total amounts.

    2 million person/years. 4 billion work hours. wasted by the neoliberal revolution.

  2. insider 2

    Weird. I see a gap starting in 1987 that grew rapidly bigger under Labour and then started reducing under national with a blip in 98

  3. Steve Pierson 3

    insider. 1987 was the start of the rightwng revolution by a labour government controlled by Roger Douglas and his mates.

    The gap reaches its maximum size, over 230,000 New Zealanders who should have been working but weren’t under National in 1991 and 1992.

    the gap was still over 110,000 in 1999 just what is was in 1989.

    then Labour came in and within four years the gap was gone

  4. IrishBill 4

    Even weirder – I see a gap that started with the man who runs National’s most likely coalition partner at the helm, continuing under National and then disappearing under Labour.

  5. When viewing and interpreting a chart, scale is important but looking at the chart as presented it appears that the increase in shortfall occurred during the Labour led reforms from 1987 to 1990. The gap steadily declined during the National led 1990’s.

    It would be interesting but of course impossible to see what the chart would have looked like if the reforms had not been undertaken. It would probably have been depicting a much less pleasant scenario. The reforms though painful were a necessary.

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    maw. the gap got bigger under National and had only returned to the already awful size that is was in 1989 when National left in 1999.

    The number of kiwis with jobs actually falls under National at the start and doesn’t reach 1987 levels until 1994.

    Only 29,000 new jobs a year under National, 47,000 under Labour since 1999.

  7. insider 7

    Wasn’t Helen Clark a minister in the 1980s?

  8. Phil 8

    I’d be intrigued to see your source data for this, especially any context to what I assume is a massive population influx in 1991?

  9. Dean 9

    Steve, given your history with statistics and graphs would you care to explain to me why I should take notice of this one? You know as well as I do that your graphs and interpretations are misleading.

    I would have gone so far as to say that seconday school children could do better than you do, but sadly this is not the case anymore.

    For instance, your blatantly wrong intepretation of the OECD tax rate chart from Wikipedia you posted, which you were questioned on but have since declined to comment on.

    I can only hope you have the honesty and conviction in your beliefs to debate these matters.

    [dean, what are you talking about, which OECD tax chart? I note you don’t actually have any rebuttal of this data, just insinuations]

  10. burt 10

    Steve P.

    then Labour came in and within four years the gap was gone

    And then they all lived happily ever after!

    Ahhh, wasn’t that lovely, a sweet little story about Labour Good – National Bad – even if the graph shows that Labour policies created a massive increase in unemployment which National started to fix and Labour were fortunate enough to take over and see concluded.

    Oh, hang on a minute, my brain just worked for a minute there – oops – Labour good – National Bad – failed policies of the past – yada yada yada.

    Keep banging on about workers rights and when the MP’s and the CEO’s get a 10% increase and the average workers get a 3% increase you can tell us that the CEO’s are nasty but the MP’s deserve it.

  11. What about productivity growth? What about the fact that workers are less productive under a Labour govt. Just look at the health sector, so many more jobs ‘created’ by the Helengrads, and where are all the new Dr’s, Nurses etc??? Huh??? All you can do is make personal attacks at National Mp’s.

    [lprent: If you want to make assertions, then back them up with some data. Don’t you think that three questions marks is an abuse of punctuation? There is no particular requirement for you to live down to your name.]

  12. mike 12

    :-) “1987 was the start of the rightwng revolution by a labour government controlled by Roger Douglas and his mates”

    Now I’ve lost all repect Steve. The National=bad labour=Good argument only works when Labour can’t be bad as well.

  13. Hey guys – congrats. I saw you on the news again!

  14. Gooner 14

    “pre-empting our rightwing friends who would rather deal in trival matters than the substantive issue”.

    Sure. Like the substantive issues the Labour Party has been talking the last few days by abusing John Key and making personal attacks on him. It was he who said the issues should be debated, not Helen Clark or Michael Cullen.

    And if you knew anything about policy you’d realise it takes years and years to manifest itself in results. There is no magic bullet. So the reforms and policy direction of the 80’s and 90’s has manifested in the position as you now show it (if the graph can be believed). It actually takes that long. It’s one of the reasons I think the election cycle is too short.

  15. Gooner – you and your have spent your whole time doing nothing but attacking the government and “Klark” and guess what? You and yours have no policy. I guess when Key was talking about spending too much time on attacking and not enough on policy he was talking from experience. Diddums.

    Oh and if the Nats are so keen on debating policy why did they shut down debate of the airport sale?


    From where I’m sitting it looks like your lot don’t like a taste of their own medicine. Kinda reminds me of how the shrill the impotent righties would get when I was allowed to post on Kiwiblog…

  16. dave 16

    What Dean said. Also how about linking to source so we can see why we should believe you – because sometimes you are correct. Sometimes you spin to over emphasise a position that is pretty weak when presented with facts and the rest of the story that you omit – like the proportion of people with part time jobs, the economic value of employees, proportion of women in the workforce, how many have two part time jobs, how long in the policy cycle changes take to manifest themselves etc. All relevant but missed on purpose

    So as Lynn would say, if you want to make nice graphs of data, back them up with sources and the rest of the story if you want to be taken seriously.

    In fact the gap may not just be be the number of people who could have been working, it could be the number of additional people who could have been studying….

  17. randal 17

    like , like, like, like that was justa whole pile of rubbish like!

  18. randal 18

    why bother studying when you can self award a MA and become a barman…still waiting for the name of that university dave

  19. AncientGeek 19

    Jumping up way back …

    what I assume is a massive population influx in 1991?

    Census in 1990? There are often lumps in statistical data when the census comes through. Sometimes the estimates are off, and sometimes the measurement changes. I’ve seen it a number of times.

    Let me see…. 2006 2002 1998 1994 1990. That would fit. Typically the data shifts in the year following the census

  20. lprent 20

    “So as Lynn would say, if you want to make nice graphs of data, back them up with sources and the rest of the story if you want to be taken seriously.”

    This site is more about making comment than being a reference site. It definitely isn’t a academic site. Making assertions should be backed up with data. That is simply to reduce comment that comes from personal opinion igniting flamewars or for perpetuating popular myths.

    Look at the bottom of the jpeg Steve put up, the sources are mentioned. Yes – a direct link would be nice, but not critical. The major links usually are in reference sites on the blogroll on the right. I’ll add the rbnz.

    IMHO: Argument about what is applicable data is preferable to argument about urban myths. This shows up strongly in this post and the previous one. I also enjoy the effective use of humour, satire and sarcasm in comments. It makes them easier to read when I scan (I tend to laugh and become more tolerant of transgressions).

  21. IrishBill says: You’re banned for life. And before anyone starts whining about us being partisan try setting up a “kiwiblogsux” account over at David’s blog and see how far you get.

  22. Phil 22


    “Let me see . 2006 2002 1998 1994 1990. That would fit. Typically the data shifts in the year following the census”

    The Census is every five years, not four.

    There is no other ‘burp’ in the data shown here – everything else follows a reasonably understandable trend (with the exception maybe of ’83).

    I was always under the impression that the first rule of statistics is thus; “when something looks interesting or unusual, it’s probably an error”

  23. vto 23

    fuck you eggs are dreaming if you think thats what the graph shows.

    Just the same as your stupid thread below re interest rates under the different govts.

  24. Steve Pierson 24

    Phil. I don’t know why the population stepped in 1991 – thats what the stats figures say.

    vto. no, you’re a towel

  25. AncientGeek 25

    The Census is every five years, not four.

    You are so right. I got confused because I was looking at some data from the 2001, which was labelled as 2002 because that was when it was published, and remembered that the last census was 2006. Ok – actually it is because I was short of coffee at the time.

    2006, 2001, 1996, and 1991.. Maybe.

    “when something looks interesting or unusual, it’s probably an error’

    Yes, but I don’t have access to the graph data so I made a presumption of accuracy on SP’s side.

    The next most common problems with any data series are either real data injected into estimated data, or a change in how something is measured. I see these kinds of error all of the time in IT.

  26. Phil 26

    I suspect you’ve failed to take into account a “series break” when it looks like there were some failry significant changes to the methodology of population statistics in 1991.

    The size of that break is 120,000 people, give or take a few hundered, which accounts for roughly half of the purple block in that year. I suspect that if the series break is treated in a mathematically correct fashion, your conclusions will be untenable

  27. Steve Pierson 27

    Phil. i don’t think the step change has any serious consequences for the graph, and I think it is real, not a measurement issue. there were a few years with very high net immigration in the last few decades (and others with much lower net immigration), and large cadres entering the workforce as small cadres left. 1991 is the year with the single largest population gain but it is not freakish – working age pop growth that year is 5%, in 2005 it was 2.89%, two other years also broke 2%.

    And none of this changes the full story – there was a decrease in employment at the start of the neoliberal era, and then very weak employment growth from 1993. That saw the productive potential of around 2 million person/years wasted.

    As ever, if you have a problem with my analysis you’re wlecome to make your own graph.

  28. Phil 28

    I don’t want to be anal about this, but… “working age pop growth that year is 5%, in 2005 it was 2.89%, two other years also broke 2%.”

    If that isn’t a sign of error, I don’t know what is. A rough calculation in a spreadsheet puts the 1991 growth rate about 4 times out of standard deviation from the mean!

    With respect to the broad theme, you’re arguing a tautology. Regieme change like we had in the 80’s is ALWAYS going to cause disruption and unemployment. That’s not conjecture on my part, it’s a fairly obvious statement based on simply looking at history. Whether or not we needed the change is a whole separate issue.

    The problem for you is that the gap you have described narrows under both parties. It is not suddenly, as if by magic, fixed under Labour

  29. Gooner 29

    Robinsod – you’re writing to me as if I’m a Nat. I’ve never voted National and never will. Too conservative, no guts.

  30. Dean 30

    “[dean, what are you talking about, which OECD tax chart? I note you don’t actually have any rebuttal of this data, just insinuations]”

    I’m not sure who said this at the bottom of my last comment in this thread, but whoever it was just made me spit my drink out.

    I’m talking about the OECD graph on wikipedia which Steve linked to on this blog, and was claimed to show that the corporate tax rates in New Zealand were low – when the chart showed anything but. Even Rob agreed with me.. but I’ve yet to see Steve admit he was wrong.

    [lprent: Dean is correct. Please label yourself when you insert into a comment. Otherwise it gets too confusing.]

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