John Key’s government has reacted to the thousands of job losses occurring each week in this country in much the same way a possum crossing a road reacts to headlights. Since over-promising and under-delivering with the Jobs Summit, they’ve been exposed as completely out of ideas.
The dole queue is growing by 1100 each week, and we know that up to twice as many people lose their jobs but can’t get the dole (usually because of partner’s income). From a low of 17,000 just a year ago, dole numbers have now reached 45,000 and are expected to reach 90,000 at their peak. The cost of that is phenomenal – each person on the dole costs about $12,000 in net benefit payments a year. Add to that lost tax on their working income of around $7,000 for the average worker and admin costs of several hundred, and the costs of rising crime associated with poverty due to rising unemployment. Having a person on the unemployment benefit costs the country a fortune. Now times that by 73,000 and you would think there is a massive incentive for this government to do everything possible to protect and create jobs.
But it just ain’t happening. Key (who once claimed his $50 million cycle-way would create 3700 jobs over two years) says the $340 million home insulation programme will create 500 jobs a year while a McJobs programme will create another 1400 part-time, minimum-wage jobs a year. Like a drop of water to a man in the desert, those jobs are welcome but nowhere near sufficent.
We need more than watered-down Green Party programmes right now. I challenge Key to adopt all or most of the Greens’ ‘Green New Deal’ package, which they estimate will create 43,000 jobs. Not only would it save half a billion in unemployment payments, rather than sitting around on the dole, useful work like building more state houses would get done too.
Unfortunately for New Zealand, I think we can be sure that the Key government won’t have the vision or courage to go for the Green New Deal. They will just stand, staring at the headlights, while the juggernaut of joblessness continues to hit Kiwis and their families.
[Colin Espiner: in your article you, again, confuse the number of people on the unemployment benefit with the number who are unemployed.]