The Social Development Minister doesn’t seem to realise how counter-productive it is to shame those on low wages while signalling to jobseekers that they don’t need to rush to find work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Some 164,000 New Zealanders are employed in jobs that pay around the minimum wage. These are hardworking people like cleaners, waiters, labourers and factory workers who are doing their best to support their families and get on with life.

“They will be discouraged by Carmel Sepuloni saying jobseekers could refuse to accept work that was beneath them and still claim the jobseeker benefit.

“This is no idle concern. The number of people getting Jobseeker Support jumped by about 9000 to 129,643 in the September quarter from the same quarter last year.

“Most Kiwis would find whatever work they could to put food on the table, even if it meant taking on work they’re too skilled for while they look for something suitable.

“Those already working hard in lower-wage jobs would be shocked to discover the Government thinks it is fine for someone to claim a benefit while turning up their nose at the sort of jobs they’re doing.

“Ms Sepuloni may be struggling to explain her Ministry’s newly published social outcomes investment strategy, which aims to lift the number of people in ‘sustainable’ employment, which is those that don’t return to a benefit.

“But allowing jobseekers to wait for a perfect match in a job is a lower priority in the strategy than improving the job prospects of young people, working more effectively with Maori and helping those with dependents or a disability.

“This is a Government which often appears to reneg on its responsibilities to voters and taxpayers. It has signalled higher wages are in the offing and triggered the worst year for strikes in decades.

“This Minister seems to think she is responsible for benefit payments and encouraging people to stay on them for longer, when her default should be that a job is better than no job.

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