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John MacDonald: Confidence is key for getting off the dole

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 8 Feb 2024, 1:15PM
Photo / Bevan Conley
Photo / Bevan Conley

John MacDonald: Confidence is key for getting off the dole

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 8 Feb 2024, 1:15PM

If you're after a bit of beneficiary bashing, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. 

But if you want to know why I think someone getting the Jobseeker unemployment benefit is now expected to spend an average of 13 years on a benefit, then keep reading. 

I’ll explain what I mean, but the key word for me is “confidence”. Which I’ll get to shortly. 

But I know there will be no shortage of people up and down the country today banging-on about this new statistic which has come from some modelling work done for the Government. That someone getting the Jobseeker unemployment benefit is now expected to spend an average of 13 years on a benefit.  

And there’ll be talk about dole bludgers and lamos. Maybe there’ll be a bit of talk about boot camps and military training as well. 

But I bet what you won’t hear much of, is anything close to compassion. 

And the reason we won’t hear it, is because not even government departments like Work & Income and the Ministry of Social Development, that are supposed to be helping people get off the dole and into work, they don’t even seem to get it. 

And, if they don't get it, what chance is there of the rest of us getting it?  

So, what is it exactly that they’re not getting?  

They’re not getting the fact that when someone ends up on the dole —and any other benefit too, possibly— but certainly the dole; the impact that can have on their confidence is massive. 

That’s why I think this is all about confidence, as much as anything.  

Because, as we all know, the minute your confidence takes a hit, so does everything else in your life. 

And I don’t think we really understand how much of a hit your confidence takes when you sign up for the dole. I’m not claiming that I understand it, because I’ve never had to do it. 

But what I do know, is that there’s probably only one or two degrees of separation between me and the unemployment benefit. It’ll be the same for you. Unless you’re on the dole already. And, if you are, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  

I’d like to think —as we all would— that I would never have to sign up for the dole. But there’s no guarantee. I’d also like to think that, if things did go pear-shaped for me, I’d be able to get work pretty quickly. But if my confidence went downhill, then maybe not. 

I’m always amazed whenever someone, who I think is on top of things and super confident, tells me they have low or no confidence in themselves. And these aren’t people on a benefit. These aren’t people stuck in the WINZ and MSD system. 

Yes, there are no-hopers in our society. There always have and there always will be. And not much can be done for them. And whether we can do anything for their kids too is a big issue. Because inter-generational welfare dependency is a thing. It’s a thing in New Zealand and a thing around the world. 

Social Development Minister Louise Upston was on Newstalk ZB this morning saying the Government is going to incentivise people to work. Which is political-speak for consequences.  

But nowhere is anyone talking about the single biggest thing stopping some people from getting off the dole.  

The Government can talk as tough as it wants about “incentivising” people to work. But if someone’s confidence in themselves is completely shot, then no amount of incentivising and penalising is going to work. 

And until we recognise that and do something to help unemployed people restore their self-confidence, so that they’re not freaked out by the idea of making a phone call or sending an email —let alone turning-up to a job interview— until we do something about that, nothing is going to change. 

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