Peter Milne has one question for a government advisory group that wants more beneficiaries to have to look for work: Where are the jobs?
Mr Milne, 55, worked for 18 years as a debt collector for ANZ Bank and then nine years as a pokie machine attendant at the SkyCity casino until his job and 19 others were axed last August.
Since then, he has applied for between 100-120 jobs, and had a dozen interviews, but can't get anything more than temporary on-call jobs driving and as a movie extra.
He has chosen to speak out because the Government's welfare working group, chaired by economist Paula Rebstock, is expected to recommend today that most working-aged beneficiaries should be made to look for work even if they have physical or mental illnesses or young children.
"This beneficiary would like to work," he said.
"Hang on here - I didn't ask for this. I'm fighting hard to get out of it. Don't bash me. Don't condemn me. A helping hand would be nice."
Mr Milne has a master's degree in European languages and believes he has a stable work record demonstrating "skill, talent and adaptability".
"I've taken on some pretty awful on-call casual work, and also some pretty nice on-call casual work. With any luck I have a movie booking next week for a few hours on Shortland Street," he said.
Since losing his job, he has also attended a computer course and acquired a computer from a friend which he uses to search for jobs and file job applications online.
"I literally did not have the knowledge to do this three months ago," he said.
"It's so much nicer to do it all from home than trudging up to the local library, which I was doing."
He is "a lot luckier than most" because he has paid off the mortgage on his Manurewa home, but living on the adult dole of $198 a week means he still panics when a big bill looms.
"I nearly died of shock when I put more gas in the car the other day and it cost $60," he said. "That car gets me to job interviews and to my wonderful casual on-call jobs.
"You live in dread of something breaking down or something needing replacing. Your mental state gets a bit crazy. You acquire a hungry, begging, catching tone to your voice and with all the best will in the world you become very, very under-empowered."
He said the problem was simply that there were far more applicants than jobs.
He has been to several "walk-in" interviews where applicants are processed in batches of 30 or 40 at a time. One of them, for a parking attendant's job in a new parking building, involved test parking a car.
"However, thanks to a couple of driving convictions long ago for drunk driving, that job was gone."
Graham Rogers of Manukau-based Advance Personnel Services confirmed yesterday that the job market was still "extremely tough".
"We used to have a huge workload in warehousing and in the last 18 months that has virtually dried up."By Simon Collins Email Simon