Benefits aren’t a pathway to prosperity

Budget 2021 showed little aspiration for the almost 200,000 New Zealanders without a job, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Hon Louise Upston says.

“Many people are doing it really tough right now. More than 70,000 people have moved onto the Jobseeker benefit since 2017. More New Zealanders need assistance because of the economic conditions made worse by the Labour Government.

“These people may benefit from the short-term relief of increased benefits, but they need a way to long-term prosperity and financial independence. This Broken Compass Budget failed to deliver this and showed the Government have all but given up on the job creation plan promised at the 2020 election.

“Welfare will never be a pathway out of poverty. Having a job is the best route out of hardship and will provide the greatest lift to household income. No matter how much benefits increase, they will never be a substitute for having a job.

“While the Government is spending an extra $3.3 billion on benefit increases, expenditure on employment support is effectively stagnant. In fact, budget documents reveal in 2020/21 the Ministry of Social Development actually underspent by almost $100 million one of their budgets dedicated to employment support.

“Both those receiving benefits and taxpayers would be better off if the Government invested in services that grapple with the underlying reasons of why a person is out of work. One in every nine people are now on a main benefit under Labour. Tailored services and supports are urgently needed to help these New Zealanders into work.

“Worryingly budget documents reveal the number of benefit recipients receiving direct employment case management has halved compared to 2017.

“It’s very easy to spend money, but helping people into work requires a dedicated and concerted strategy. Helping people into work is the compassionate action to take. Unfortunately Labour are content to let people languish on benefit.

“With the poor performance of job creation schemes like the shovel-ready projects, the Māori Trades and Training initiative, and the Redeployment scheme, Labour have given up on the jobs plan they promised before the 2020 election.

“Without initiatives to provide new job opportunities or dedicated support for people to move off the benefit, we risk creating a generation who are dependent on the Government long-term.

“Budget 2021 showed Labour lack the ambition and inclination required to support New Zealander’s doing it tough into a more prosperous future. National don’t want Kiwis to just exist on a benefit. We want them to have jobs, to prosper and to have a future.”