How is Work and Income working proactively to support young people into employment?
As Minister I have recently insisted that we step up our youth employment seminars, rolling them out throughout New Zealand. Over the past few months more than 1,000 seminars have been held, from Northland to Palmerston North, and in Kapiti and Otago. Over 13,000 young people have been invited to attend these seminars. These are seeing young people move off benefits into jobs and training, through connecting them with local businesses and local trainers. Since then we have seen that number of young people dropping off the unemployment benefit. In January 2010 we had 23,500 young people on the unemployment benefit; in August 2011 we had 15,980. Progress has been made.
It would be fair to say there has been a mixed response. We are getting a fantastic response from employers and from training organisations in turning up, but we are not always having a fantastic response from the young people themselves in turning up. In some places we are getting as low as a 50 percent attendance; in others it is about 80 percent. These seminars are part of work testing for the unemployment benefit; we have had to sanction a number of young people for not following up on the work test, but that does not mean we will give up on them. We do believe we can get better behaviour there so that they are turning up for these seminars so they can get these jobs.
What set of statistics is she using to base employment policy on: the household labour force survey, which shows we have the highest youth unemployment on record; the seasonally adjusted National Employment Indicator, which shows 47,000 fewer Kiwis in jobs than when she took office; or the figures she has tried to table today from TradeMe?
It would be fair to say that I use a range of reports and figures that come in. I concentrate on the people who are affected. These are young people who are out there trying to—
I apologise to the Minister. A Labour member asked a question and if Labour members were serious about asking the question, I would expect they would want to hear the answer. There was no way anyone could hear much of that answer. I just ask for a little more respect, please.
For example, I could also look at the Hudson Report, which just came out today, on employment expectations. It says that there are signs of employer confidence emerging, particularly amongst small businesses. A net 22.5 percent of employers are planning to increase staff numbers before the end of the year. That means that there will be some jobs. Our job is to try to get those young people ready for those jobs, and that is what I am clearly focused on.
Does she think it is appropriate to continue to pay a young person the dole when that payment could be used to subsidise an employer to take on that young person as an apprentice instead?
The member may not be aware that there is a $5,000 subsidy that can go to employers. There are more than 13,000 of them now for young people, and more than 90 percent of those young people have stayed in jobs because of that subsidy. It now has a training component alongside of that as well. It is having outstanding results and is seeing young people get into jobs.