Delivering effective employment services is a challenging task. The assistance provided must be tailored to the needs of the person, their family circumstances and the labour market opportunities in the area where they live. Some people only need adequate income support short-term to allow them time to find a good match for their next job. Others face multiple disadvantages, such as health conditions and disabilities, or lack of qualifications, functional illiteracy (including digital and technological literacy), experience and skills. The system must recognise these disadvantages and provide the appropriate types of employment supports. The long-term returns, both economic and social, will far exceed the short-term costs of investing in people in this way (WEAG, 2019j).
"There is a lack of understanding shown by staff and policies as to what actually constitutes ‘suitable work’ for different people and their circumstances and situations."
PAST WELFARE RECIPIENT
We note the especially poor employment outcomes for Māori, Pacific People, young people and people with health conditions and disabilities. These are inequalities that ought not to exist and, while not all of the problem is due to the system, a sustained and substantial increase in investment in education, training and effective ALMPs would better reflect a whakamana tāngata approach.
We are similarly concerned about other groups of workers. In particular, too many people are 'churning' on and off benefit, without moving onto a pathway into good and sustainable work. This group needs more ALMP support, including post-placement support, to help them stay in work. Further, assistance for people displaced from their jobs (for example, through redundancy) is limited, and wider labour market protections for displaced workers are lacking. Most people experiencing redundancy generally reattach to the labour market, but they appear to pay a permanent penalty, having poorer long-term outcomes and lower earnings than comparable workers who do not lose their jobs (Dixon & Maré, 2013; Hyslop & Townsend, 2017). This is exacerbated by the stand-down provisions that apply before a person is eligible for a benefit, which we recommend are eliminated (see detailed recommendation table in chapter 7 on Main benefits, page 116). Even in the present strong labour market, this is a gap; in weaker economic conditions or if (when) the rate of redundancy rises due to technological change, it has the potential to become a crisis for those affected.
"Better job seeker support than there is currently – as in actual support to find a job, not just saying 'oh yeah have you tried looking on Trade Me jobs? Or Seek?' "