PM defends rise of job seeker benefits

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 8:23AM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the increase of job seeker benefits as industries desperately try and fill 19,000 job vacancies which are currently available.

Asked by Mike Hosking why there has been an increase of 11,000 more people claiming the job seeker benefit, the Prime Minister believed there were other factors in play, and was confident job matching programmes matching employees with in demand industries was working.

“I have been doing a little bit of digging into this. Our unemployment numbers have come down to 3.9%. One of the things I have heard is that people weren't always accessing their work and income entitlements. We have some great examples of job hubs which are matching workers with skills, and we would like to see that happening in the regions.

"Of course we want people in work, but if they can't find work or are unable to work, they should be able to access the benefit."

The Government yesterday announced $82 million will go into increasing employment opportunities for young people in the regions, focused on Māori and Pasifika people. Jacinda Ardern says the flagship government programme, which has come under scrutiny from National, needed more time for the results to become noticeable.

With just 3.4 percent of the programme funding paid out, each of the 54 jobs created under the scheme is costing the government about $484,000. Ardern wouldn't confirm the numbers to Mike Hosking, instead saying she would like to crunch the numbers more before any decisions are made.

"You are asking me to confirm something from the opposition. Of course I will follow this up. This type of investment takes a while to get up and running. On a week by week basis targets are going to change and I really dispute taking a snapshot in time.

"One of the things we did with the Provincial Growth Fund yesterday was matching workers with the skills. We can do a better job matching the need of people seeking work, especially in areas like Northland." 

Ardern, who has been touring the Far North ahead of Waitangi Day, says she has personally seen the results of the Provincial Growth Fund.

"There are a number of Northland projects which are benefiting from this. There is a tourism mountain bike facility and a number of projects happening while I was in Northland yesterday which are creating jobs."

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