COMMENT:

Our unemployment rate is a good problem to have - but it masks a fundamental weakness of our economy.

Ashburton was the headline the other week, it has 1.9 per cent unemployment. For jobs, it's the land of milk and honey, but could they find enough people to do the work? Of course, they couldn't.

The curse of our success is we have milked the working population dry. It doesn't mean everyone has a job, it just means everyone who actually wants to work has a job.

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Vance Kerslake has been looking into this, he's in Marlborough, and he looked at 55 businesses across a dozen industries, and 85 per cent of them had vacancies.

He has concluded, and he is right, there is a mindset that, 'Kiwis are too good for seasonal work'. This is not a new problem but it is an increasingly alarming and difficult problem.

Not only are we too good for it, but we are also whingers as well. 'The pay is crap, transport is an issue, there's no accommodation,' are all common complaints. In other words, instead of actually accepting we are too good, we look for excuses.

Now, not all jobs are our cup of tea. Not all work is work for life.

But seasonal work is good work for some. It's good for university students, for travellers, for those on gap years or for those who want to graft a bit and get a bit of easy coin in the pocket.

And yet we have become like the landed gentry. We only dabble in the things that aren't too cumbersome or tiring.

So it seems remarkable we are still prepared to hand out welfare to people who refuse to work.

Complicating it further, it seems even more remarkable that we have such a tired old system of seasonal work applications and quotas, that make you jump through hoops to get the foreign labour in to actually solve our problem.

They've recently increased the foreign seasonal quota, but why don't we just be honest about it and make it permanent? Why do we make employers prove they can't get locals? Why can't we accept that, in this sort of work particularly, if you could get a local easily, you would but you can't?

The system is geared on some sort of weird suspicion from the department, "what do you mean you can't find a local? Prove it." "Surely there is a local".

No there isn't, there hasn't been for years. No one is going and getting people from overseas unless they have to, it's picking fruit for god sake. Who needs the hassle?

And while the numbers, or lack of them, are the tangible problem, it's the attitude that's the underlying issue.

We are lazy. We are excuse makers. We work harder at working out why we shouldn't work than at actually doing the work. Hard work is good for you, everyone should have a laborious and tiring job at least once in their life.

The fact we have a growing number of excuse making sloths, who are allowed to get away with it, is depressing.