ZB

PM Ardern focuses on Govt work support as National reviews tax policy, Cost of Living Payment hiccups continue

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 4 Aug 2022, 11:35am

PM Ardern focuses on Govt work support as National reviews tax policy, Cost of Living Payment hiccups continue

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 4 Aug 2022, 11:35am

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is marking a milestone for one of the Government's key skills and training initiatives today amid dealing with hiccups in the Cost of Living programme and ongoing worker shortage issues.

Ardern fronted media this morning after marking Mana in Mahi, a wage subsidy programme designed to try to get the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work and training.

As well as talking about the programme, she was also asked about New Zealand's response to the monkeybox outbreak, youth crime and the Government's reaction to National's decision to drop its tax policies.

On the latter, Ardern said that that was not a question for them, instead it was a questions for voters to answer.

On monkeypox vaccines, Ardern said New Zealand had been seeking them like other countries.

Countries with vaccines got them after they recorded cases. Now New Zealand had cases the chances of getting vaccines increased. The main tools at the moment contact tracing and isolating, and a vaccine would support that.

And on youth crime, Ardern said there had been a decline in youth court appearances. But she did accept there had been a spike in retail crime and ram raids.

Meanwhile, the Mana in Mahi programme has now seen 5000 people supported into jobs, exceeding the 4000 target in 2019. Three quarters of the participants who had been on a benefit for two or more years had not back on the benefit since completing the Mana in Mahi programme, and 89 per cent of those who were also doing training were working towards a qualification at NZQA level 3 or higher

"Mana in Mahi, along with the Government's suite of employment programmes, have helped to support our recovery from Covid-19 and remain a critical part of our plan to manage labour market impacts on those looking for work," Ardern said.

It comes amid political wrangling over inflation and the cost of living in the week the first tranche of Cost of Living payments went out to those on incomes of less than $70,000.

Prior to Ardern talkig it was revealed National was now reviewing its tax policy again - its finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis said it planned to come up with a new policy for the election rather than the current policy to index tax thresholds to inflation.

Indexation was National's preferred response to the cost of living crunch, but had been criticised by its opponents who claimed it would be too inflationary - and give little to those on lower incomes.

Much of the attention of the Cost of Living payment was on payments that went to people now living overseas, who are not eligible – and that it had so far gone to just 1.3 million, instead of the 2.1 million estimated.

That led to Ardern distancing herself from a Labour Party fundraising drive, emailing supporters and boasting about payments going to 2.1 million people, before asking for a small donation. Ardern said it was not the timing or the wording she would have used, but she had been unaware of it prior to it being sent.

The $350 payment is paid out in three tranches of $116 over three months.

It follows yesterday's release of unemployment and wage statistics for the June quarter, showing unemployment was marginally up to 3.3 per cent for the June quarter, still at low levels in a tight labour market.

The Government has pointed to skills and training schemes as part of its attempt to resolve the worker shortages, along with the revamp of immigration to try as the international borders reopened.

Mana in Mahi subsidises employers to help cover the wages of people they might not otherwise take on, as well as giving training and work support to those taking part in it.

The programme was expanded to a two-year programme in 2020, but will revert to a one year programme from August. It was given an extra $11 million in the Budget, which is expected to provide for 1600 people over the next year.