I remember just over a year ago, Helen Clark announcing that the number of people on the unemployment benefit had fallen below 18,000 for the first time in 30 years. The roomful of Labour supporters erupted into applause.
Contrary to the crap you hear from righties, Labour top priority is making sure everyone who wants one can get a decent job on decent pay. And they were amazingly successful in achieving it. There was palpable pride among the Labour supporters that, although it was far from perfect, under Labour unemployment had been kept below 4% for four years, the minimum wage had gone up every year under Labour, wages and conditions were so much better than a decade before, and so few people needed the safety net of the dole.
How quickly things change. Here’s dole numbers as they stand today and the (conservative) estimates from Paula Bennett (thanks Marty):
Since June last year, the numbers have nearly tripled back to where they were in 2005. By 2011, we’ll be back to where we were in 2003.
Five years of work lost.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, there’s a recession on but if we had a government that was putting jobs first tens of thousands of jobs could be saved. If we had a government that invested in jobs rather than giving big tax cuts to the rich, we wouldn’t be looking at 70,000 more people out of work and on the dole.