Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Budget 2012: Creating jobs no easy task

One of the tasks for the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be to boost the country's science and research capabilities. Photo / Mark Mitchell
One of the tasks for the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be to boost the country's science and research capabilities. Photo / Mark Mitchell

At last year's Budget, Finance Minister Bill English said he expected economic growth to help create 170,000 new jobs by 2015.

But since then growth and job creation have lagged behind those predictions.

Forecasts suggested 31,000 new jobs would be added in the year to March and the unemployment rate would fall from 6.6 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

Data shows 20,000 jobs were added, but given the increase in the size of the workforce, the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 per cent. And of the new jobs created, part-time roles made up a higher proportion.

Mr English's office says the Government remains on track and last year's Budget forecast was based on a December 2010 to June 2015 period.

A spokesman said the focus remained on "policies that give businesses the confidence to invest and hire more workers".

That's where "economic tzar" Steven Joyce comes in.

Mr Joyce was given the Economic Development, Science and Technology and Tertiary Education portfolios in last year's election cabinet reshuffle. That was followed up earlier this year with the decision to merge the ministries of Economic Development and Science and Innovation and the departments of Building and Housing and Labour in a new "business facing" Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment under the ultimate oversight of Mr Joyce.

So how will the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment help more New Zealanders find work?

"No public sector reorganisation in the world will ever create more jobs on its own", Mr Joyce said. "It's simply a platform by which we will get more momentum on the Government policy initiatives so that they can get out there and improve the market for competitive businesses to succeed in the world."

Labour's economic development spokesman David Cunliffe said that while his party shared the belief that jobs would come through stimulating business growth, "the question is how do you do that?"

Merging government departments would not make any difference and that was reflected in the advice Mr Joyce had received from officials which had been released to the public.

"The reason that logic is absent is there is no clear economic development strategy in the first place. So I'd be pessimistic that just rearranging the departmental deck chairs will make an iota of difference to the job market or to business conditions."

Mr Joyce acknowledged that "structural change on its own doesn't achieve world domination" but said there would be important advances in a number of policy areas for the merged ministry in the Budget.

One of National's campaign policies was to transform Industrial Research Ltd (IRL) into the Advanced Technology Institute. At the time Prime Minister John Key said the plan was to double the size and capability of IRL "transforming it into an advanced technology institute with up to 700 staff and with a far greater reach than at present" which would cost about $120 to $150 million over five years, in addition to IRL's current funding.

Meanwhile, the Budget will also have further detail around the Government's "grand science challenges", another campaign policy, that was about identifying "overarching themes for science and research that would contribute to New Zealand economically, and environmentally particularly".

HELPING YOUNG INTO WORK

While "Super Minister" Steven Joyce is leading the Government drive to create high skilled jobs, Auckland Council is getting on board a successful business-led programme to help less qualified youngsters into work.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce runs the "CadetMax" programme that each year takes on about 250 young South Aucklanders who have left school early for a variety of reasons such as bullying and poor performance in the classroom.

The programme gives them training in some basic employment skills such as CV writing, but most importantly places them for work experience with companies such as Qantas, and SkyCity.

"These firms put their hands up and take these kids for work experience because they know they're working with the chamber and know it's helping as a part of the community," Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said.

"If you can give these young kids work experience you enhance any opportunity they're going to have for future employment."

As many as 80 per cent of those that complete the course end up finding a permanent job.

The latest development this year has seen the scheme has accept about 50 graduates of the government's Limited Service Volunteer "bootcamp" scheme.

- NZ Herald

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