Editorial: Incentive for beneficiaries a life-changer

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$3000 carrot to take jobs in Christchurch welcome.

Christchurch City. Photo / APN
Christchurch City. Photo / APN

It is almost 35 years since Norman Tebbit infamously told the unemployed of Britain to get "on yer bike". The Employment Secretary was frustrated that, unlike his father in an earlier time, people out of work were not prepared to take to the road to find work. His plea for a less static workforce fell on deaf ears, however, not least because jobs were thin on the ground in the early years of the Thatcher Government.

No such problem exists these days in Christchurch, however. The rebuilding of the city has created plenty of opportunities. Any initiative that makes it easier for beneficiaries to move to this work is, therefore, welcome.

That is the objective of the $3000 incentive that the Government will give to unemployed workers to take fulltime jobs in Christchurch. The one-off payment will be available to up to 1000 people who have confirmed job offers, with the focus on those aged 18 to 24. The sum is intended to provide beneficiaries with the means to move to Christchurch and sort out accommodation, clothing, tools and anything else they might need.

To overcome, in other words, impediments that might stand in the way of their making the shift.

As well as helping the beneficiaries, the scheme will, obviously, aid the rebuilding of the city. The need for more workers is evident in Canterbury's 3.4 per cent unemployment rate, which is much lower than the 6 per cent national rate. According to the Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, work is available not only in the construction sector, which has increased its workforce by 90 per cent since the earthquakes, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries. If the pressure on housing in Christchurch could cause a problem or two, that is hardly a reason to scrap the scheme, given its potential value.

All up, the initiative will cost, at most, $3.5 million. That is an insignificant sum for something that could be a life-changing experience for those who seize the opportunity during its 12-month span.

There should be no shortage of applicants. About 19,000 beneficiaries are required to be available for part-time or fulltime work in the 18-to-24 age bracket alone. Some of that number may be loath to leave the relative comforts of home and family. But rather than being disinclined, they should heed the "need work, will travel" mindset that has become common worldwide. Take, for example, the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and others from central Europe who have moved thousands of kilometres to become part of the British workforce.

The Government says it had briefly considered making it compulsory for beneficiaries to move to Christchurch when their skills and a job could be matched. Wisely, that was discounted. If Baron Tebbit's advice caused a furore, so have suggestions that the current British Government could force beneficiaries living in social housing to move to areas where jobs are available. The compulsory uprooting of men and women and, conceivably, families in a manner such as this is clearly a step too far.

But moves that promote a mobile workforce without such strictures are an entirely different matter. It makes little sense for a district to be crying out for workers when there is a 6 per cent unemployment rate. Most beneficiaries also want to be doing meaningful work. Helping to rebuild a shattered city surely fits that bill. Nor are beneficiaries being asked to travel to another country and culture like the Poles and Czechs in Britain, or, indeed, the many people from overseas who have come to work in Christchurch. There is every reason for them to grasp the opportunity.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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