Unemployment insurance scheme (a Labour election promise) has made it to the drawing board

The last of a bundle of Budget Day announcements was a joint statement from the Government, Business NZ and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, telling us they are  jointly designing a Social Unemployment Insurance scheme.  

Finance Minister Grant Robertson likened the proposed scheme to the ACC for accidents, cushioning the impact of a job loss.

It would support workers to retain about 80 per cent of their income for a period after they lose their jobs and delivers on a commitment in Labour’s manifesto.

We expected much more comment and/or analysis than we found for this significant new initiative (although maybe we did not look hard enough).

A guest writer on The Spinoff focussed on “The problem with social unemployment insurance”.  Arguments for and against are presented today in a better balanced article on Stuff.

The Budget Day blast of benefit boosts and other goodies (and don’t forget the borrowing) seems to have exhausted the Beehive press gang.  Only two statements had emerged since then when we began work on this post.

Economic and Regional Envelopment Minister Stuart Nash grabbed an opportunity to do a bit of Shane Jones-style braying at the opening of a Surf Rescue Base at Pāpāmoa (the press statement had him opening a “new” surf rescue base, raising the question of how many old ones he has opened).

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins seemed chuffed that more people than showed up in an earlier survey have put their hands up for the Covid-19 vaccine. He also gave a progress report which illustrated how many Kiwis (around 90 per cent) have not been given their Covid shots, although some of these seem determined to stay well clear of the vaccinators.

Building stronger support for workers post COVID

The election promise of a social unemployment insurance scheme has yet to be delivered, strictly speaking, because – according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s Budget Day announcement – the Government, Business NZ and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions are jointly designing it. Hence it is still on the drawing board and the announcement was all about what is intended.

It will support workers to retain about 80 per cent of their income for a period after they lose their jobs.

“As we secure our recovery from COVID-19, we have an opportunity to better support New Zealanders who lose their jobs through no fault of their own,” Robertson said.

After the Global Financial Crisis, Canterbury earthquakes and COVID-19, governments had had to institute ad-hoc programmes to support those who lost their jobs. BusinessNZ and the CTU asked to work with Government to propose a more enduring solution and this is our joint response.

The Social Insurance Tripartite Working Group (Government, BusinessNZ and CTU) will be consulting targeted stakeholders on what the right settings could be, balancing the support needed for Kiwis to find quality new jobs against the costs of running the scheme.

There will be wider public consultation later this year.

Big jump in New Zealanders who say they’ll get vaccinated

Latest research shows more New Zealanders in major demographic groups will get a COVID-19 vaccine, as the number of doses administered reaches half a million, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said at the weekend.

He referenced Ministry of Health research from April which shows 77 per cent of New Zealanders aged 16 years and over say they are likely to get a vaccine or have already received a vaccine. This compares to 69 per cent in March.

The number of people who say they are unlikely to get vaccinated dropped to 12 per cent, down from 20 per cent in March and 24 per cent in December 2020. Among the 12 per cent “unlikely”, there remains a smaller group of people who are opposed, at 7.8 per cent.”

Latest acceptance rates:

  • Overall – 77 per cent, up from 69 per cent, or 3,147,200 out of 4,082,500 New Zealanders 16 and over
  • 7 per cent of these people have had one or two doses
  • Maori – 71 per cent, up from 64 percent in March
  • Pasifika – 79 per cent, up from 59 percent in March
  • Over 65s are the most likely to get vaccinated

Hipkins’ latest figures showed 505,820 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, three months after the first person was vaccinated.

“This is a significant milestone,” he hooted.

At Point of Order (whose veteran scribblers have yet to be given their shots) we mused on the magnitude of the challenge.  A population of 5,116,300 suggests some 4,610,480 people – around 90 per cent – are unvaccinated.

But the pace is quickening:

“It took 49 days to reach 100,000 doses, two weeks to reach 200,000, 12 days to get to 300,000, eight days to hit 400,000 and another eight days to reach the half million.

“Given the complexity and sheer scale of the task at hand this is a strong confidence booster in the vaccination programme as we prepare for the bulk of the vaccine to arrive in country from July.”

NZ’s supply of vaccines will be “constrained” to the end of June, but

“ … our planning has always been predicated on larger amounts of vaccine arriving from July, enabling us to finish vaccinating Group 3 and then move into the wider population.

“The vast majority of DHBs have already started vaccinating Group 3 or will do so in the next few weeks, and we remain on track to make the vaccine available to everyone in New Zealand by the end of 2021,” Chris Hipkins said.

Investing in Pāpāmoa community and economy

Regional Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash has officially opened the new Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club building with praise for the effort of volunteers, fundraisers and donors.

The project was supported by a grant from the ‘shovel ready’ COVID Response and Recovery Fund.

“The strong community spirit in this part of Bay of Plenty meant most of the funds for the $5.4 million project were raised locally. But early last year the final fundraising push was thwarted by the global pandemic. The government approved a grant of $800,000 in September 2020 to make up the shortfall.”

Surf lifesaving clubs, like marae, churches, town halls and war memorials, have been prioritised for regional development funding.

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