Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and the cost of living, are shaping up to be the big election issues. Pretty inconvenient for the Nats, because their record on all of the above is terrible. Very very inconvenient for Paula Bennett, because it’s her patch. On Tuesday this piece on 3 News highlighted Bennett’s woes:
Bennett flustered by unemployment figures
The Government is receiving criticism for not doing enough to address youth unemployment, and Minister for Social development Paula Bennett appeared flustered today while defending welfare reform targeted at teenagers.
There are 58,000 people between 15 and 24 out of work, school or training – enough to fill the new Eden Park stadium. …
Ms Bennett also disputed how many young people don’t have a job, saying most 15, 16 and 17-year-olds are “in school in training and would like a part time job”. “Part time jobs have dried up for a number of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything.”
However, it means exactly that: they form part of 58,000 young people aged between 15 and 24 who Statistics NZ today confirmed are not in any form of education, employment or training.
Nice to see a journalist firmly fact checking a squirming minister for a change – good work Rebecca Wright. Wright had more on the same topic last night:
Bennett, Key at odds on welfare
The gap between John Key and Paula Bennett appears to be widening on the Government’s approach to unemployment.
The Social Development Minister has continued to field questions over her conflicting positions on the Government’s new payment card scheme for teen beneficiaries.
Yesterday it emerged Ms Bennett had written to a constituent saying she didn’t support the payment card scheme, but today she won’t rule it out. …
“The best measure is actually those on an unemployment benefit”, Mr Key says – “about 16,000 in the 18-24 [age group]”.
However Ms Bennett prefers another measure, saying Government “prefers to focus on… young people who are not in education employment or training”. That number is 58,000 people aged between 15 and 24.
No government likes stories of high level splits to take root, so expect to see Bennett fall back in to Key’s line fairly smartish.
Mr Key says “for a variety of reasons” this group isn’t unemployed, but neither he nor Ms Bennett were able to say what the group of young people is doing.
So, while they’re clearly divided in their opinions and their stats, I guess its “comforting” to know that Bennett and Key are at least completely united in their state of denial.