What recent reports, if any, has she received on unemployment in New Zealand?
This Government has made unemployment its No. 1 priority during the course of the recession, so the Minister receives a large number of reports on the issue. Just this morning I received the monthly benefit figures for September, which show that 5,890 people had cancelled benefits because they had found work.
When the Minister’s colleague the Minister of Finance said at the end of September that “There’s no doubt that unemployment has peaked”, had the Minister informed him that the number of people on the unemployment benefit had just gone up by 2 percent that month, from the very figures that the Acting Minister has just tried to use, to a total of 65,281; if not, why not?
I am not in a position to advise exactly what the Minister told the Minister of Finance, but I am sure that in their conversations they reflected upon the point that when that member was the Minister of Employment there were 165,000 registered unemployed in this country.
Does the Minister agree with KPMG’s Mood of the Market report, which said almost one in five Auckland firms expected to lay off staff over this year; if so, how does the Minister reconcile that with the comments of the Minister of Finance when he said “There’s no doubt that unemployment has peaked”?
I am uncertain whether the Minister has been briefed on that report, but I do know it is correct that the trend is certainly supportive of the comments that the finance Minister has made, when we consider that this Government inherited an economy that was in free fall, in the midst of the worst economic recession for several generations.
I am pleased to be able to report that the September figures show a positive sign for young people who are looking for work. The number of young people, as a proportion of total unemployment benefit recipients, decreased from 32.7 percent a year ago to 30.4 percent last month. However, we anticipate the usual seasonal increases will occur as students finish their exams.
Can the Minister confirm that the National Government inherited 22,000 people on the unemployment benefit, and that now 65,000 people are on the unemployment benefit; and how many of the 170,000 jobs that are to be created over the next 4 years, as promised by Gerry Brownlee, have been created so far?
I can certainly confirm the current number of unemployed people. As that member will realise, this Government inherited an economy that was in free fall, in the midst of the worst economic recession for quite some years. That recession will only get worse, given that Labour promised $500 million in back-pay to disability workers and promised another $230 million of payment in other parts of the health service, but does not appreciate the fact that eventually all that money needs to be paid back.
I seek leave to table a graph, from the Parliamentary Library, that shows that at the change of Government the number of people on the unemployment benefit was 22,000, and that as of September the number is now 65,281.
Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Does the Minister stand by her statement that the National Government has helped many, many, many unemployed young people; if so, how does she reconcile that statement with the findings of the New Zealand Institute’s NZahead project that show that “the impact of the Youth Opportunities package would affect at most 12 percent” and that “these figures do not go far towards addressing the more than 68,200” unemployed youth?
I think it is very easy to stand behind the comments that the Minister has made, because the facts of the answer to the supplementary question from Mrs Parata demonstrate what the Government’s policies are achieving. We have put a lot of emphasis into this area, and the Minister is doing a very good job of dealing with the No. 1 priority during these tough economic times.