Questionable Provincial Growth Fund job claims

Minister of Regional Economic Development  Shane Jones has been questioned for some time about how many jobs have been created by the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). He has now come up with a number, but that is a bit dubious.

RNZ: Shane Jones’ 10,000 job creation claim under scrutiny

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is crowing over cracking the target of creating more than 10,000 jobs through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

He said a detailed stocktake has found 13,217 people have been employed so far following PGF investments.

But Jones has dismissed as unimportant details like how long they had been employed for, and how many were full time or part time.

Jones said the PGF outstripping the job numbers it hoped to achieve “speaks volumes about the fund’s success”.

“So just at the level of the human face of the PGF, this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do,” Jones said.

Until now, the Provincial Development Unit only collected data about the number of workers employed on a given project over the last month.

For example, figures for May show a total of 2727.

But with growing demands from both journalists and the opposition for more details Jones got MBIE officials to ring every fund recipient to find out how many people they had employed.

To head off what he calls “doubting Thomas types” Jones had the stocktake reviewed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

However, it highlighted some shortcomings, most notably – that the figure was a count of people working on projects, not the number of jobs created.

Jones said he was not being disingenuous claiming the 10,000 jobs milestone.

“I’m not too hung up on looking at this purely through the font of an FTE (full-time equivalent). It is going to endow and it has endowed regions with new infrastructure which leads to productivity and in that journey the lives of 13,000 people have been positively touched in an economic way,” Jones said.

It seems typical of Jones not to get hung up details that give a true picture of success of the huge fund.

But National’s Michael Woodhouse said Jones was “gilding the lily”.

“They have no idea how many jobs have been created and the reason is they didn’t ask the applicants, so I think it’s disingenuous to say that many jobs have been created and they’re doing random surveys to pluck any sort of job number out of the air to make it look as if they’ve achieved an arbitrary goal,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said while $2.7 billion of the fund had been committed, only $339 million had actually made it out the door.

Actual delivery is an issue\.

Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said the fund had been great for her region.

The West Coast has been allocated just under $180m and has so far had 518 jobs.

Gibson said the planned $18m Pounamu Pathway and visitor centre was a spark of hope for businesses in the CBD.

But she said red tape had stopped projects from starting yet.

“Well that’s the thing, we still have to get those projects off the ground to do the job creation … so we’ve got a lot of work to do now to make that happen. It’s not always as easy as it sounds,” she said.

So the jobs have not actually been created yet apart from being on paper proposals.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little also believed the PGF had been a success.

Wairoa got just $6.1m to help rebuild the town centre and $9m to better digital connections for business as well as roading and skills and employment initiatives.

Little could not say exactly how many jobs had been created but said the fund was about more than that.

“Social, economic, cultural and environmental that we’re able to tick off and it makes Wairoa a much better place to live.

“So even if your jobs haven’t been as many as they thought, but I believe Wairoa has been really successful, it’s just people feeling a little bit better about themselves about getting things done,” Little said.

It’s not surprising to see a mayor being enthusiastic about being given large amounts of money by the Government, regardless of whether the money is achieving what was promised or not.

Jones has claimed “this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do”.

From the original PGF Cabinet Paper (December 2017) – key design features of the fund are:

Objectives of the Fund: The overall objective of the Fund is to lift the productivity potential in the regions. The following specific objectives are proposed – jobs and sustainable economic development; social inclusion and participation; Māori development; climate change and environmental sustainability; and resilience (infrastructure and economic).

To support our overall goal of productive, sustainable and inclusive growth, and to achieve the lift in productivity potential in the regions, I propose that investments must contribute to most of the following objectives, with a particular focus on the first objective:

a. Increased jobs and sustainable economic development: investments support increased jobs (with a focus on high quality jobs) and sustainable economic development over the long term, particularly in regions and sub-regions where unemployment is high and there are significant social challenges;

– Authorised for lodgement
Hon Shane Jones
Minister for Regional Economic Development

Jones’ claims fall well short of demonstrating that the PGF is substantially increasing high quality jobs and sustainable economic development – and says nothing about how cost effective his handouts have been.

Shane Jones concedes insufficient jobs created by Provincial Growth Fund, ‘repurposing’ funds

The billion dollar a year Provincial Growth Fund was promoted by Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones as a way of creating jobs in regions where unemployment was high, but Jones now concedes that the scheme described by some as pork barrel politics and others a NZ First re-election slush fund has failed to deliver enough jobs.

Jones now concedes the PGF hasn’t created enough jobs, suggests “Provincial Growth Fund money is not going out the door through conventional projects” and is now looking at ‘repurposing’ PGF funds to try to save job losses rather than create new jobs.

When the PGF was launched in February 2018: Provincial Growth Fund open for business

The new $1 billion per annum Provincial Growth Fund has been officially launched in Gisborne today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

“As of today, the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is open for business and has the potential to make a real difference to the people of provincial New Zealand,” Mr Jones says.

“We are being bold and we are being ambitious because this Government is committed to ending the years of neglect.”

“The first of many projects the PGF will support will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs – an impressive start to what will be an exciting three years for our provinces.”

5 February 2019 (Stuff) – Shane Jones wants Provincial Growth Fund to get ‘nephs off the couch’

“The flash words that we assemble in our Cabinet papers have actually today put a pair of gumboots on,” Jones said.

“Prince Shane” Jones was here, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Employment Minister Willie Jackson, to revive his promise to get the “nephs off the couch”.

These “nephs” are more commonly known in policy circles as NEETs – young people not in employment, education, or training – and they have been a bugbear of governments for decades.

“We are not going to rely exclusively on our Filipino Catholic immigrants. We are going to do the bloody work ourselves,” he told the crowd to applause.

But by now questions were being asked about the number of jobs being created. Jones himself is a fan of using flash words, but his job creation claims were starting to look like little more than piss and wind.

Newsroom 18 April 2019: How an OIA laid bare the pork barrel shambles that is Shane Jones’ provincial growth fund

On 5 February, MBIE’s head of the Provincial Development Unit, Robert Pigou, was reported claiming that the Provincial Growth Fund “was on track to create 10,000 jobs” – in contrast to National’s claims that the fund had created only a handful of jobs to that point.

I assumed that MBIE had run an economic forecasting exercise to estimate the effects of their various initiatives, and I wanted to know whether their assumptions had stacked up. So I made a simple request:

“Please provide the workings underlying the job creation claims, along with any correspondence with Treasury relating to that modelling.”

On 26 February, Treasury advised me they had no information to provide as they had not provided any advice to MBIE.

…on 22 March, MBIE informed me that “the Ministry is due to publicly release a spreadsheet detailing the 10,000 jobs figure at www.growingregions.govt.nz, as such this part of the request has been withheld”.

On 8 April, the Ombudsman’s office pointed me to a release on MBIE’s website providing the figures.

Here is what MBIE did to produce the 10,000 jobs figure.

They took the number of jobs that every Provincial Growth Fund applicant promised in their grant application. They added those numbers. Then they added one job for every feasibility study the Provincial Growth Fund was undertaking – that’s because you have to hire somebody to do a feasibility study.

That’s it.

Newshub 13 June 2019 – Shane Jones dodges questions over jobs created under Provincial Growth Fund

A spokesperson from Jones’s office said on Thursday 900 jobs had been created to date, including 52.5 under the ‘One Billion Trees’ programme. But the spokesperson didn’t have the number of new full-time, long-term job statistics on hand.

Jones, the Regional Economic Minister, has insisted that more jobs will be created as the PGF continues throughout the year and as projects under the fund are rolled out.

Goldsmith said at select committee Jones’s office had revealed in February a total of 215 jobs had been created out of 36.5 percent of PGF projects, and only six of those jobs were counted as full-time, long-term jobs – the rest were short-term, fixed-term or contractor roles.

The document obtained by Newshub showed 137 of the 215 jobs were part-time of less than 30 hours a week, while 23 were listed as full-time. It said it wasn’t recorded whether the remaining 55 were full-time or part-time.

Newshub 7 December 2019 – Revealed: Provincial Growth Fund costing $484k per full-time job

It’s been more than two years of the coalition Government and the $3 billion PGF has created just 616 full-time jobs.

The Opposition says it’s spraying cash, costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for each job created.

But the minister in charge – Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones – insists it’s about more than just jobs.

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions.

Six-hundred is an important figure but over the life of the fund and when the long-term projects are stood up it’ll be many thousands more than that,” he says.

This week (Stuff 7 April 2020) – Shane Jones concedes Provincial Growth Fund hasn’t created enough jobs, promises a fix

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has conceded the Provincial Growth Fund should have created more jobs after an attack by a union boss.

“We’ve disappointed a lot of rural communities that thought the dough would flow much quicker into their communities,” Jones said.

“There are no nephs there are no shovels,” he said of the Waipapa roundabout in Northland. 

“A large focus must go less on capital and on about generating actual jobs,” Jones said. 

But it could be too late for that, in this Parliamentary term at least. The Covid-19 impact on the economy and businesses is likely to see a bit surge in unemployment.

There Government is already looking at ‘repurposing’ PGF funds: Work to repurpose PGF funds begins

The Provincial Development Unit is working through applications and projects to see where Provincial Growth Fund money can be repurposed for initiatives deemed more critical to fighting the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

“We need to be throwing everything we have at our disposal at keeping Kiwi businesses going, workers in jobs and regional economies afloat and viable. If Provincial Growth Fund money is not going out the door through conventional projects then it needs to be repurposed for other initiatives,” Shane Jones said.

That sounds like Jones is conceding that ‘conventional projects’ have largely been a failure and the PGF funds should be used now to reduce job losses rather than create new jobs.

 

 

 

Extricating and transitioning businesses and workers from Covid lockdown

Most of the Government focus over the last month has been on health aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and also making emergency business and employment funds available.

Director-General Of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield obviously has a health leaning when talking about (and making decisions about)  the likely extension of the lockdown, maintaining at least Level 3 restrictions for months if not the rest of the year and potentially more.

But business and employment is also critical – the longer most business and many jobs are shut down the harder and slower it will be to crank things up again, and also the more businesses and jobs will be lost permanently.

Former National MPs Bill English and Steven Joyce are starting to nudge for more consideration of business.

Newsroom: Awkward questions from the last crisis managers

While the Government has provided a range of financial support packages to help businesses get through the current lockdown, the uncertainty of how long they will be forced to remain closed is creating a growing level of angst, particularly among small to medium businesses, as owners begin to question their future livelihood and whether their businesses remain as going concerns.

The Government’s stance on certain non-essential businesses being unable to trade is being called into question by Joyce.

While he supports the lockdown in principle and the need to maintain public health, he questions why the Government hasn’t done more to establish a “middle ground” that would allow certain businesses to continue to trade.

“The Government has broader responsibilities beyond public health. I believe they need to start talking about how businesses can begin to transition out of the lockdown, even now, where certain businesses would be able to operate creating no greater risk to public health than currently exists,” Joyce told Newsroom in an interview.

He cites examples of online businesses with contactless delivery systems or even butcher shops adopting the one-in-one-out system that has been successfully used by diaries and pharmacies as ways this transition could begin to be managed without compromising the principles of the lockdown.

It makes sense that a part of the Government effort is towards urgently looking at how to safely get more businesses and workers back in action.

Joyce’s call follows similar remarks by former Prime Minister Sir Bill English in a private briefing to Jarden investors last week.

In a transcript of his remarks that has been widely circulated, English said the Government must start looking beyond the lockdown.

“What does this look like, and when might it be enacted? I understand medical experts would like to see the lockdown remain in place for 12-13 weeks. A lockdown of that duration has clear economic implications, meaning an exit strategy needs to be formulated,” English said.

English said one of the most important requirements for a Government in times like this was to listen.

“It is very important that the government develops a feedback loop to understand how policies land and adjust quickly, which means listening hard.”

If the Government is working on this (and they should be treating it with urgency) then they do more to communicate a viable plan to transition businesses and workers back to as close to normal as is reasonably safe.

As long as they leave options open to those people who are more vulnerable and more concerned about their household safety then there should be a clear plan to get as many people safely back to normal as quickly as possible.

Nation: Willie Jackson on Māori employment

Willie Jackson on Newshub Nation: Employment Minister Willie Jackson talks about his plans to get young people into work and how an economic slowdown could affect the Government’s goal to reduce unemployment to four percent.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson says he would like to get Māori unemployment down to 5%

“There’s statistics and then there are statistics” – Willie Jackson on referring to the unemployment stats for New Zealanders as a whole vs Māori.

Willie Jackson says it is appropriate for Meka Whaitiri to still be co-chair of the Māori caucus

PG raises eyebrows.

Welfare overhaul announcement ‘imminent’

Jacinda Ardern has said that an announcement on aims to overhaul welfare delivery is ‘imminent’, but it will rely on yet another working group so any decisions are likely to be quite a way down the track.

Some (Greens especially) have proposed a much more generous ‘no questions asked’ welfare payment system.

The Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement stated:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

That is toned down from what Metiria Turei promoted before crashing during last year’s election campaign, in a policy labelled ‘Mending the Safety Net’:

We will:

  • Increase all core benefits by 20 percent
  • Increase the amount people can earn before their benefit is cut
  • Increase the value of Working For Families for all families
  • Create a Working For Families Children’s Credit of $72 a week
  • Remove financial penalties and excessive sanctions for people receiving benefits
  • Reduce the bottom tax rate from 10.5 percent to 9 percent on income under $14,000
  • Introduce a new top tax rate of 40 percent on income over $150,000 per year.
  • Raise the minimum wage to $17.75 in the first year and keep raising it until it’s 66 percent of the average wage.

Our welfare system should provide effective support for people who need it, while they need it. The social safety net should stop families from falling into poverty and guarantee a basic, liveable income. That’s what it means to live in a decent, compassionate society.

Punishing people through benefit sanctions, cuts, and investigations has not worked. Rather than giving people ‘incentives’, it traps them in a cycle of poverty and puts children’s wellbeing at risk. Children suffer when the welfare system punishes their parents, and in the long term, so does society. It is never ok for the government to use poverty or the threat of poverty as a weapon.

The Green Party’s plan will ensure the people on the highest incomes pay their fair share and those that need help are treated with respect and dignity.

That last paragraph looks like code for a major redistribution – one could wonder if it aims at ‘fair share’ being equal share, no matter what work one does or doesn’t do.

Stuff: Welfare overhaul working group details leak out online

Details of the “imminent” Government overhaul of the welfare system have emerged in online job listings.

The job listings show the Government is setting up a welfare overhaul “expert advisory group” supported by a secretariat of officials from different departments.

The listings for a project manager and strategic communications advisor were posted in March of this year on the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) website.

In the job description MSD write “the Government has committed, through the Labour/Greens Confidence and Supply Agreement, to overhaul the Welfare System. This work will be led by an independent group of Experts, supported by a Secretariat of officials from MSD, the Treasury and Inland Revenue.”

The listings have emerged as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said an announcement on the welfare overhaul is “imminent”.

Ardern has made clear that some sanctions would remain after the overhaul.

She said a culture change was needed at Work and Income, but acknowledged that “by and large” case managers did a good job.

“Culture change is difficult. We are coming in after nine years of there being an expectation that there be a singular focus on reducing benefit numbers and of course we want people in work, we want people who are seeking work to be able to find work, but I think it has tipped over into a space where it actually denying people who need help the help they need,” Ardern said.

This reform could be a real test of Labour versus Green aims.

Greens want a radical change to generous state assistance as a right and a choice. This may meet some resistance from people who pay tax, but is likely to be supported by those who can’t work, and also by those who don’t want to work.

If I was offered the option of a comfortable income from the Government I would be very tempted to retire early.

We already have sustained high immigration because we don’t have enough New Zealand workers for a number of industries. If we have more of a choice to not work would higher immigration to compensate be acceptable?

Welfare reform is a big and contentious issue.

There is no doubt that the current system has serious flaws and is punitive, but it will be difficult – and potentially very expensive – to make major changes.

For the Greens to get what they want it will involve much more than welfare reform – their wish list would require…

  • welfare reform
  • tax and revenue reform
  • employment reform
  • serious reconsideration of immigration

…and probably more

If it ended up how some indicate they want it too it would involve a radical shift towards virtual socialism.

Reserve Bank must now consider employment alongside inflation

A new Policy Targets Agreement requires Reserve Bank “monetary policy to be conducted so that it contributes to supporting maximum levels of sustainable employment within the economy” as well as still keeping inflation between one and three percent.

I have no idea how the Reserve Bank will influence employment levels.

It could be tricky if the objectives clash.

Grant Robertson: New PTA requires Reserve Bank to consider employment alongside price stability mandate


Finance Minister Grant Robertson and incoming Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr today signed a new Policy Targets Agreement (PTA) setting out specific targets for maintaining price stability and a requirement for employment outcomes to be considered in the conduct of monetary policy.

The new PTA takes effect from 27 March 2018, when Adrian Orr starts his five-year term as Governor. The new PTA has to be signed under the existing provisions of the Reserve Bank Act 1989, which has price stability as the Reserve Bank’s primary objective.

The agreement continues the requirement for the Reserve Bank to keep future annual CPI inflation between 1 and 3 percent over the medium-term, with a focus on keeping future inflation near the 2 percent mid-point.

The new PTA now also requires monetary policy to be conducted so that it contributes to supporting maximum levels of sustainable employment within the economy.

“The Reserve Bank Act is nearly 30 years old. While the single focus on price stability has generally served New Zealand well, there have been significant changes to the New Zealand economy and to monetary policy practices since it was enacted,” Grant Robertson said.

“The importance of monetary policy as a tool to support the real, productive, economy has been evolving and will be recognised in New Zealand law by adding employment outcomes alongside price stability as a dual mandate for the Reserve Bank, as seen in countries like the United States, Australia and Norway.

“Work on legislation to codify a dual mandate is underway. In the meantime, the new PTA will ensure the conduct of monetary policy in maintaining price stability will also contribute to employment outcomes.”

A Bill will be introduced to Parliament in the coming months to implement Cabinet’s decisions on recommendations from Phase 1 of the Review. As well as legislating for the dual mandate, this will include the creation of a committee for monetary policy decisions.

“Currently, the Governor of the Reserve Bank has sole authority for monetary policy decisions under the Act. While clear institutional accountability was important for establishing the credibility of the inflation-targeting system when the Act was introduced, there has been greater recognition in recent decades of the benefits of committee decision-making structures,” Grant Robertson said.

“In practice, the Reserve Bank’s decision-making practices for monetary policy have adapted to reflect this, with an internal Governing Committee collectively making decisions on monetary policy. However, the Act has not been updated accordingly.”

The Government has agreed a range of five to seven voting members for a Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) for decision-making. The majority of members will be Reserve Bank internal staff, and a minority will be external members. The Reserve Bank Governor will be the chair.

 

Reserve Bank Governor-Designate, Adrian Orr, said that the PTA recognises the importance of monetary policy to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“The PTA appropriately retains the Reserve Bank’s focus on a price stability objective. The Bank’s annual consumer price inflation target remains at 1 to 3 percent, with the ongoing focus on the mid-point of 2 percent.

“Price stability offers enduring benefits for New Zealanders’ living standards, especially for those on low and fixed incomes. It guards against the erosion of the value of our money and savings, and the misallocation of investment.”

Mr Orr said that the PTA also recognises the role of monetary policy in contributing to supporting maximum sustainable employment, as will be captured formally in an amendment Bill in coming months.

“This PTA provides a bridge in that direction under the constraints of the current Act. The Reserve Bank’s flexible inflation targeting regime has long included employment and output variability in its deliberations on interest rate decisions. What this PTA does is make it an explicit expectation that the Bank accounts for that consideration transparently. Maximum sustainable employment is determined by a wide range of economic factors beyond monetary policy.”

Mr Orr said that he welcomes the intention to use a monetary policy committee decision-making group, including both Bank staff and a minority of external members.

Opposition response to workplace bill

The Government has announced changes they will make to workplace and employment legislation – see Workplace legislation announced.

Some of the proposed changes undo legislation introduced by the last government in an employer/employee  flip flop ritual between National and Labour.

Opposition spokesperson Amy Adams responds:


Employment changes will reduce job opportunities

The Labour-led Government’s employment law changes announced today can only slow down New Zealand’s high-performing job market, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“These changes will only reduce job opportunities and wage growth, especially for those vulnerable workers on the edges of the labour market. They also mean workers will have less flexibility to get their job done,” Ms Adams says.

“The law as it stands encourages all businesses, small and large, to grow their workforces and take a chance on new workers and long-term unemployed people.

“While Labour have now partially backed down and allowed small businesses to continue with 90 day trials, they’ve still closed those trials off to the bigger businesses that take on many of these vulnerable workers. Those workers will have fewer opportunities.

“If 90 day trials are okay for small businesses, then why shouldn’t they apply to larger businesses as well?”

Ms Adams says that with New Zealand’s world-leading performance in job creation over the last few years, the onus was on the government to justify the need for the reforms.

“Under current employment law New Zealand has added a mammoth 245,000 jobs in the last two years and has the third highest employment rate in the developed world. Nearly 80 per cent of New Zealand workers are in full-time jobs and wages have been growing at twice the rate of inflation.

“These changes will only damage that track record. So why are they actually needed?

“New Zealanders will rightly suspect they are a random union wish list. People will be asking exactly how much influence these unions have in the current Government.

“These reforms will further damage business confidence and take New Zealand backwards. They will only disrupt New Zealand’s settled and successful employment law.

“That’s not good news for jobs or wages for New Zealanders.”

Irish truck drivers south to fill shortage

Truck driving is another occupation in New Zealand that faces shortages of workers. Firms are trying to recruit drivers from Ireland.

Construction, horticulture, viticulture and dairy farming also have trouble attracting local workers – and while wage rates may be a factor I think it’s far from the only reason why we have worker shortages alongside a stubborn level of unemployment.

Irish Times:  New Zealand seeks to recruit 1,000 Irish truck drivers

Irish long distance drivers are being invited to travel a very long distance to get work. New Zealand is looking to recruit up to 1,000 truck drivers from overseas as it cannot fill the vacancies internally.

It takes three years to qualify as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver in New Zealand and many young Kiwis are not attracted to the job.

Recruitment firm Canstaff is offering a new relocation package to overseas heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers from Ireland to fill the skills shortage. In some cases haulage companies will pay the cost of flights to New Zealand.

Irish truck drivers can earn between €15 and €20 an hour in New Zealand. In Ireland the rate is closer to €12 an hour, according to Canstaff managing director Matt Jones.

Mr Jones said he had spent a lot of time in Ireland in 2011 and 2012 recruiting construction workers to rebuild Christchurch which had been badly damaged in an earthquake.

The average reported salary for a New Zealand truck driver last year was NZ$51,200 (€31,000), but wages have gone up by 20 per cent to attract the right candidates.

“Despite Government initiatives to attract more heavy vehicle drivers, the shortage has been ongoing and a more immediate solution is needed to keep New Zealand’s wheels of commerce turning.”

RNZ:  Trucking firms forced to go offshore to search for drivers

A recruitment agency is planning to import truck drivers from overseas because local young people aren’t interested in that line of work.

Simon Reid owns a company in Northland that maintains about nine trucks. Business is pretty good, but he’s got a problem.

“There is quite a problem with attracting drivers to the industry. It’s not going to be something that goes away, simply because the government isn’t interested in helping us.

“They don’t see us as being a critical problem in the bigger picture of the economy.”

Recruitment firm Canstaff’s managing director Matt Jones thought he knew why.

“It’s probably not sexy enough for that [younger] generation.

“There’s a bit of graft in it, a bit of dirt under the fingernails … the millennial generation enjoy looking at a computer screen. They don’t mind driving a truck on a computer screen, but doing it in real life is a little bit different.”

Long haul truck driving often means having to spend time away from home.

Truck driving is a fairly lucrative job – it starts at about $50,000 a year, hits six figures at the top levels, and doesn’t require an expensive tertiary degree.

That doesn’t sound bad – money doesn’t seem to be the main reason for the driver shortage.

All you need to get the wheels rolling is a full driver’s licence, and one of four types of special class licence – which you can sit straight away, after having your full licence for six months.

The Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in Tauranga offers courses in heavy truck driving safety. The group leader of those courses, Dean Colville, said enrolments had hit a low point.

“This year we’ve had the lowest numbers ever. Normally we run classes of about 20, and this year they’ve been down to about 14, and as low as six in some cases.”

Mr Colville said the problem was the six-month wait to get a full drivers licence, which meant high school graduates could not get a job in the industry immediately after high school.

A six month wait for a full license doesn’t seem to be a big issue. Most careers take some training and time after you leave school.

Were seem to have quite a few unemployed people who are quite fussy about the sort of work they get. And there’s some that aren’t fussed on work at all.

These sorts of issues can be complex, but the truck driver shortage adds to the unemployment and immigration debates.

Seymour v. English on employee drug use

Bill English has been widely criticised for his comments on drug use being an impediment to employment of New Zealanders – it is an issue but English has not communicated it well (and of course media and opponents have highlighted narrow parts of what he has said.

See PM accused of telling ‘stories’ to justify immigration

ACT’s David Seymour suggests that English and some of his opponents “missed the point”.

Drug and alcohol use and lack of incentive to take on jobs that may be ‘less than optimal’ is more a symptom than a cause of entrenched unemployment problems.

Seymour has put out this press release:

Unemployment not caused by employers OR drug users

The government and opposition have both missed the point by blaming unemployment on drug users and immigration, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Employers are turning to migrant workers not because Kiwis are drug addicts, and not because migrants are cheaper,” says Mr Seymour. “The real issue is a fundamental lack of basic life skills among local available employees.

“The most obvious issue is literacy. 2016’s Half-Yearly Employers’ Survey from the EMA showed a massive 43% of respondents voicing concerns about poor completion of workplace documents. And the most recent Employers’ Survey showed that 36% of respondents are dissatisfied with the work readiness of school leavers. And 65% say there is, or will be, a skills shortage in their industry.

“ACT has always sought to address these fundamental issues through education. Partnership Schools have the potential to upskill those students let down by the state system, which is why we’ll be pushing to open more after the election.

“This is also why ACT announced over the weekend that we would give prisoners discounts off sentences if they gain functional literacy. 60-70 per cent of prisoners lack the literacy ability to understand the road code or an employment contract, so it’s no wonder 48 per cent are back inside within four years.”

There’s a bit of political opportunism trying to turn the issue into something that coincidentally ACT policies can resolve, but Seymour does have a point.

A lot of people who take up seasonal work in agriculture, horticulture and viticulture can in fact be better educated young people wanting to fund further education.

One of the biggest problems with the long term unemployed is that some of them couldn’t be bothered or didn’t fit in with available education and have gone on to not be bothered with or fit in with available work.

This can be due to a lifetime of mis-learning.

Perhaps the focus should be less on drug testing of prospective employees and more on the drug (and alcohol) use of prospective parents who become responsible for intergenerational education and employment problems.

But this won’t be an easy election campaign fix.

Little on immigration, jobs and drugs

Andrew Little has just been interviewed on RNZ. While critical of Bill English’s comments about drugs causing employment problems – “It all starts to look like an excuse for the government not to do anything about our young unemployed” – he is not against drug testing nor against immigration.

Little actually adds anecdotal evidence of employers needing to know if potential employees are drug safe.

Little slams the Government but in part doesn’t disagree with aspects.

These aren’t simple issues.