Government Acting on Maori Unemployment

  • Peter McCardle

Employment Minister Peter McCardle says the Maori unemployment rate is totally unacceptable, and measures are being taken to tackle the problem.

"However the fact is there are now more Maori in paid work than at any time since 1985. The Household Labour Force Survey figures for the March quarter show there are 139, 000 Maori employed.

"The number of Maori in work has risen steadily during this decade, from a level of 104,000 in March 1990.

"A primary factor behind Maori employment is lack of skills and qualifications, but the Government is rectifying that by providing both mainstream help and targeted assistance through the New Zealand Employment Service. The Service runs five programmes specifically for Maori, in addition to the help available to all jobseekers," Mr McCardle said.

"These are Tane Atawhai, Job Plus Maori Assets, Wahine Pakari, Maori Youth and the Maori Employment Programme Fund. And we are planning for more initiatives in future. In addition, one of the priorities of the Employment Service is to place Maori into paid work.

"The measures being taken are part of a range aimed at moving people into the workforce in stages. They are "staircase" measures which provide self-esteem and confidence building. After completing these courses, people move onto a higher level programme, if they are still without a job.

"Lack of self-esteem is a common characteristic among Maori jobseekers and these NZES targeted programmes aim to improve their self esteem, as well as providing practical skills and training. Job subsidies are part of some of these programmes.

"One of the most popular courses is Tane Atawhai, which is aimed at Maori men. This year it is expected that between 3,000 and 4,000 men will take part.

"I believe my Community Work strategy will be another boost to Maori jobseekers," Mr McCardle said. "It is not aimed specifically at Maori, but keeping all jobseekers in touch with the workforce will have big benefits. It will help them get new skills, retain the ones they already have, and keep people motivated and positive. It's too easy to slip into a negative mindset, and bad habits, while waiting for your next job."

NZES research among its clients shows employers value a good attitude and willingness to work, and good appearance and presentation, above other things such as practical work experience.

Mr McCardle said, "I am confident the measures we are taking, along with other assistance in the education sector, will have a positive impact in addressing long-term Maori unemployment."