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The truth behind job numbers

Written By: - Date published: 7:04 am, July 25th, 2017 - 25 comments
Categories: class war, economy, jobs, quality of life, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

National is fond of claiming that the economy is adding plenty of new jobs. Bruce Munro has written an excellent piece in the ODT that looks in to the hard truth behind the numbers. It will surprise no on here to be told that National’s new jobs are often low quality, part time, low pay, short term, insecure. This is one of the reasons why, looking round the country, we see growing poverty and homelessness, the rise of the working poor.

Munro’s piece is long, detailed, and an excellent read. Here are just a few extracts:

Hours of work

In June, Paul Goldsmith, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, was exulting in an 11.8% growth in online job advertisements during the past 12 months.

The previous month, he was pleased to announce 137,000 new jobs had been created during the year to May. ”The Government’s comprehensive economic plan is working for families, with lower unemployment, strong job creation and higher wages to help people get ahead,” Mr Goldsmith enthused.

But, talk of ”record labour force participation” and a ”significant increase” in jobs is only telling part of the story. Just below the surface, another darker picture emerges. It does not take much digging in Statistics New Zealand’s latest Household Labour Force Survey to uncover a growing world of low-paid work, insufficient working hours, financial struggles and unfulfilled lives.

Since 2008, when National took the reins, the number of people employed has increased 18.6%, or by 400,000 people. While this sounds a lot, it is actually a little sub-par compared with the percentage increase in the Extended Labour Force (ELF). Not to be confused with Santa’s little helper, the ELF is a grouping of all those who are employed, unemployed, or want a job but have given up looking.

Yes, that’s right, according to how the Government counts its beans, unemployment figures do not include people who want to work but are not actively looking for work. The latter are euphemistically lumped under the heading ”Potential Labour Force” along with those ”actively seeking but not currently available, but will be available to work in the next four weeks”.

While the percentage increase in employment and the extended labour force have kept roughly in step with each other there are less positive measures that have been galloping ahead.

During the past nine years, the percentage increase in unemployment, underemployment and underutilisation has been two to three times higher than the increase in employment.

Let’s take those one at a time.

For the whole of New Zealand, over that period, the number of people unemployed has increased 49%.

Then there are the underemployed. Those are the people who are employed for fewer than 30 hours a week and would like to be working more hours. Their number has increased 61%.

And there are the underutilised. This is the grouping of people who are unemployed, underemployed and in the potential labour force. They have grown by 38%.

Welcome to the precarious proletariat, aka, the precariat; the growing group of second-class citizens who struggle to get a decent job, a decent wage, a decent life.

In New Zealand today, there are 139,000 people unemployed and trying to find work. That includes 5500 unemployed people in Otago. But remember, ”unemployed” is not the whole picture. There are also 80,000 Kiwis wanting to work but who have given up looking, including 3600 in Otago. On top of that, there are 110,000 individuals in part-time work who need more hours, including 5400 in Otago. There are now 329,000 New Zealanders, including almost 15,000 in Otago, who cannot get any or enough work. That is one person for every eight people in the total work force.

It is a situation that angers trade union boss Gerard Hehir. Mr Hehir is national secretary of Unite Union, which has about 7000 members nationwide, half of whom are fast-food workers.

”For a generation, a huge section of the workforce has not only not had enough paid work, but from week to week they do not know how much work and income they will have,” he says. ”It has impacted disproportionately on younger, low-paid and Maori and Pasifika workers.

”Lack of work has simply been re-configured and, conveniently for the Government, hidden from most official statistics.”

What particularly angers Mr Hehir is what he perceives to be a deliberate strategy to use insecure work to keep workers compliant and maximise profits.

Wellington-based economist for the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Bill Rosenberg has no doubts the Government could improve the lot of the precariat if it wanted to.

”Unemployment and underemployment in its various forms has recovered much more slowly than it could have if there had been policies that focused on getting decent jobs for people out of work,” Mr Rosenberg says.

Not only is underemployment increasing, but the length of time people are unemployed is also growing. Compared with 2008, the percentage of those unemployed who remain without work for more than a year has tripled. Now, more than 30% of those looking for work remain ”between jobs” for more than 52 weeks.

On the underemployment front, Mr Rosenberg says people are being forced off benefits when there are no suitable jobs for them. He points to recent research for the Ministry of Social Development that shows only a third of those who came off welfare benefits during the year to June, 2011, were in employment two years later.

”They find themselves having to take up insecure, part-time or short-term jobs and many end up unemployed again or underemployed.”

New Zealand has the weakest job protection legislation of any job protection legislation of any OECD country, Mr Rosenberg says.

What is needed is a government focused on reducing unemployment and underemployment, and creating good jobs. …

Go read the full piece in the ODT.

25 comments on “The truth behind job numbers”

  1. Incognito 1

    Good piece!

    What’s needed is a change of government. We need a government that does not import slave labour immigrants to compete with and crowd out Kiwis, often the young and inexperienced. [Crikey, I’m starting to sound like a NZ1 supporter]

    The current situation is not accidental but entirely by design; thank you National for 9 years of backpedalling.

  2. Keith 2

    If job growth is as spectacular as Goldsmith claims, how can we have unemployed at all?

    How is it there is not a worker shortage?

    Why is wage growth essentially frozen with such demand and such competition?

    Could it be another National Party Minister is lying to us, again?

    • Richard Christie 2.1

      how can we have unemployed at all?

      ’cause unemployed NZ’ers are all drug addled losers, according to their PM.

  3. Tamati Tautuhi 3

    Job Statistics are meaningless if we change the criteria, we should be measuring the statistics the same way we did in the early 1900’s ?

  4. Nic the NZer 4

    The next government should introduce a policy which targets the unemployed and underemployed. A job guarantee meaning anybody who wants a job or more hours can access paid work. This would make for a fairer job market as the alternative to low paid private sector work is still a job. It would probably eliminate zero hour contracts too when employers find employees otherwise occupied for short notice work hours.

  5. One Anonymous Bloke 5

    Obviously the solution is to cancel the Household Labour Force Survey.

    • lprent 5.1

      That would be a typical National party response. And I guess that you haven’t read this..

      http://politik.co.nz/en/content/politics/1103/The-new-sexy-Government-department-Scott-Simpson-statistics-census.htm

      A little noticed relatively minor new spending allowance in last week’s Budget is actually the first indication of what is likely to be a major and radical upheaval in one of the most basic of Government functions.

      $4.5 million over three years is small change in the overall Budget context.

      The money is to be allocated to the Stats NZ Census Transformation project.

      Ultimately this is designed to end the five –yearly process where papers are dropped off at each house and filled in with data about who lives there and how they live.

      Once that happens, I’d say that a more acceptable survey technique to replace the household survey would be the next target.

      • ianmac 5.1.1

        The Nelson/Marlborough office of Stats NZ is being closed. Effective from March 2018. (Before or after the next Census?)

      • dukeofurl 5.1.2

        Its still necesary to vist every possible residence, otherwise you dont know what you dont know.- Its that house empty this mont or are they just away for weekend?

        Last time I filled my forms online after they left the package for the paper forms.

        They still came knocking a couple of times looking for results- but I was away for various reasons.
        I considered even if they knew I had filled in online they were paid for the houses they visited so the incentives were to collect anyway.

        Im more worried about the data still containing personification, as they have blurred the lines about removing things like names and addresses fairly soon when processed. This is where David Thiels business coincided with NZ Census data. Could that be the reason he took citizenship, so his company Palaintir was not considered ‘foreign’

    • dukeofurl 5.2

      Cancel the HLF ?

      Thats already happened
      http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/income-and-work/employment_and_unemployment/household-labour-force-survey-info-releases.aspx

      The last release was 2014 and they note :
      Note: We have discontinued this release. Content previously available in the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) release is now available in:

      Labour Market Statistics

  6. Tamati Tautuhi 6

    NZF tried to introduce a Bill through Parliament to get the 95,000 unemployed between 15-25 years old into Government organised work schemes and training however this was voted down by National & the Greens ?

    Go figure that one out ?

    • Nic the NZer 6.1

      Really unimpressed by the Green party if that is true. Unsurprised in the case of National.

  7. The decrypter 7

    Todds hours of work are limited.

  8. patricia bremner 8

    Well, we are being prepared to step aside for cheaper robots.
    We are “The Experiment”.
    That is why our capitalist “Successes” are lauded and our societal failures are poorly counted. imo.

  9. RedLogix 9

    This is just a modern version of the old ‘labour pool’ days. Employers shift the risk onto workers while retaining the rewards for themselves. It’s very common everywhere, in all industries, at all levels of employment. It’s the big thing in HR circles these days.

    There are quite a few job placement companies active in this space.

    It’s not all bad if the worker does pick up some of the reward. If say you’re paid $35/hr as a full-time employee, then as a contractor you need to be paid at least double this to reflect the extra risk and costs. OK if you have the skills that are in demand, or the flexible hours suit your lifestyle. Not so hot if you have a fat mortgage and young family.

    What can work well is for employers to pay a monthly retainer which covers essential living costs, with a guaranteed minimum number of days over and above that.

    The problem for lower skilled workers is the huge asymmetry of power in the relationship. Worse still when there is a job placement/labour hire company in the loop, essentially acting as the employers agent. I’d imagine unions have left a big opportunity on the table by not getting into this space themselves.

    • I’d imagine unions have left a big opportunity on the table by not getting into this space themselves.

      I’m pretty sure that would turn them into guilds and they’re illegal.

      The laws have been set to benefit the capitalists by removing the power of the workers.

      • RedLogix 9.1.1

        The wiki page on guilds is an interesting read:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild

        While very few guilds still exist in their original form, there are plenty of professional organisations (law, medicine, engineering, etc) that are indistinguishable from them.

  10. Ad 10

    +100 Cheers Rob and Mr Munro

  11. Carolyn_nth 11

    Quoted in the above post:

    He points to recent research for the Ministry of Social Development that shows only a third of those who came off welfare benefits during the year to June, 2011, were in employment two years later.

    ”They find themselves having to take up insecure, part-time or short-term jobs and many end up unemployed again or underemployed.”

    So this is where the punitive, sanction-laden, benefit system, touted by Paula Bennett, Bling, Shonkey, et al has taken us!

  12. Philj 12

    Very informative journalism. Nothing really surprising if you pay attention to what is really happening. What is surprising is that it’s not surprising to many.

  13. Stuart Munro 13

    “History is a constant race between invention and catastrophe. Education helps but it’s never enough. You also must run.” Frank Herbert.

    NZ governments haven’t run for a generation.

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