23 Jun 2009

Government accused of not doing enough to save jobs

8:47 pm on 23 June 2009

The Labour Party is accusing the Government of not doing enough to keep people in work, as the number of people seeking the unemployment benefit rises by about 1100 a week.

But Prime Minister John Key has rejected the criticism during Question Time in Parliament on Tuesday.

Unemployment is now surging, as New Zealand feels the full effect of the global recession.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett on Tuesday confirmed that in the past two months, the number of people going on the dole has more than doubled from earlier this year to about 1100 a week.

The unemployment benefit is not available to everyone who loses their job.

Labour leader Phil Goff says the rise in unemployment is proof that Mr Key's Jobs Summit on 27 February was at best a talkfest and at worst a political gimmick.

Mr Key disagrees, telling MPs on Tuesday that the Government has done a lot to protect employment but it cannot save every job. However, he could not say how many jobs have been created and lost since the Jobs Summit.

Finance Minister Bill English says the Government has in place a number of initiatives - including the nine-day fortnight, spending on infrastructure, the national cycleway and the home insulation package - all aimed at blunting the worst effects of the recession.

Mr English says there is no easy solution to the problem of rising unemployment. If there were, he says governments around the world would have adopted it.

Unemployment rate may be higher - CTU

The Council of Trade Unions says it believes 1200 people per week are signing on for the unemployment benefit - many of them young people from the Auckland region.

CTU secretary Peter Conway told Nine to Noon on Tuesday that the real number of unemployed could be higher, as not everyone is eligible for a benefit. He says some of those people may have been doing casual or part-time work.

Figures issued on Tuesday on the Government's nine-day fortnight scheme show 345 jobs have been saved.

Mr Conway said that, though this not a satisfactory result, the scheme is still a good initiative. However, he believes the scheme would be more successful if it paid more and was tied to training.