I always tend to be a little wary when looking at figures and statistics because they are often used in somewhat dubious ways to present a picture that either distorts the true reality or that suits a particular point of view.
I recall an example some years ago when we proposed a fee increase for a particular service that was being charged out at a nominal fee of $5. The true cost of the service was considerably more than this.
We proposed to increase the charge by $5 and there were howls of protest from the small number of individuals affected, who made their argument on the basis that a 100 per cent increase in the charge was unfair.
Both the $5 increase and the 100 per cent increase were accurate figures, but they painted an entirely different picture. As we know, many politicians are notoriously good at using statistics to their advantage.
This week I was looking at some basic data for Jobseeker and Benefit Support in our district, it was factual and didn't contain too many surprises.
In the category of Work Ready Job Seeker support the number had increased from 219 people in March 2020 to 240 people in March 2021, an increase of 21 people or 9.59 per cent.
There had been a steady upwards trend in the first six months of that period which peaked at 282 in September last year, but importantly has been steadily trending downwards since.
This trend is mirrored across other councils and suggests the local and regional economy is showing signs of improvements and is recovering from the impact of Covid-19.
Younger people were by far the most affected in these statistics and those in the 18 to 30 years age bracket made up around 37 per cent of this group. By ethnicity, NZ Europeans made up 48 per cent of the work ready job seekers, while Māori (who make up less than 20 per cent of the population) were over represented at 41 per cent. From these stats it is clear where the focus needs to be to help get our people back into work.
People receiving Job Seeker Health and Disability Support also increased from 108 people in March 2020 to 144 people in March 2021, an increase of 36 people or 33.33 per cent. This did not follow the same trend as the previous category and had increased steadily over the 12 month period and continues to do so.
The numbers of people on all other main benefits collectively has risen from 369 people in March 2020 to 390 people in March 2021, an increase of 21 people or 5.69 per cent.
Putting this into overall perspective, as a district, employment-wise we are better off than some places and I would give us a tick and a marginal pass mark for the efforts so far. But there is clearly a task ahead to push forward with the regional economic development plans that will help reduce these job seeker numbers.
Recently a Taranaki delegation of mayors, iwi representatives and others went to Wellington and met with government ministers Grant Robertson, Megan Woods, Nanaia Mahuta and Stuart Nash.
In our two-hour discussion we were able to push our case for more financial support and other forms of assistance to enable the region to activate and turbo boost our economic recovery plans. We were well received and our region's needs have been communicated to the government.
We didn't return with a blank cheque in our pockets, nor did we expect to, but the trip was worthwhile and in due course I am optimistic that, we will see greater investment by the Government in projects that matter within the Taranaki region.