Peter Williams: Why don't jobseekers pick fruit and do something?

Opinion 10/04/2019

By Peter Williams host of Magic Mornings

A few years ago, Bill English was widely condemned for stating the obvious - that there is a part of the community which, when it comes to employment, is just “hopeless.”

The head of Marlborough Federated Farmers raised a few hackles recently too, especially among those on the left who believe the welfare state should give away money no questions asked, by referring to the same group of people as “useless.”


Both were of course absolutely correct. There is a group that just refuses to be interested in work.

And every year we have a shortage of people to pick the fruit in the autumn in places like the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay.

A news story  tells us that in the kiwifruit industry, employers are now prepared to pay around $23.50 an hour to pick kiwi fruit. $23.50 an hour, that’s 940 dollars a week before tax. Not bad coin eh, yet there is still a significant shortage of workers and there’s a fair chance that a lot of kiwifruit will be left on the vines because there are not enough people to pick it.

Now as of the end of last year, there were 134,048 people on the Jobseeker Support benefit, what we used to call the dole.

That was an increase of nearly 9 percent on the year before.

So there are plenty of people available to pick fruit if they want to.

If you drill down into the Bay of Plenty regional figures for jobseeker support, you’ll find that as of December there were 6,465 people described as Jobseeker - Work ready.

That’s the highest number in that category in the region for 4 years, yet it’s the place that’s crying out for Kiwifruit pickers at $23.50 an hour, nearly a thousand bucks a week, and they can’t get enough people to do the job.

Here’s the thing. If you want to be long term unemployed, you can go and have a temporary job picking kiwifruit for a few weeks.

Source: Getty Images

As soon as the season is over, you can go back to being your slothful, lazy self and go straight onto the job seeker support payment immediately.

Those descriptions of Bill English and Philip Neal, the Federated Farmers man from Marlborough, are absolutely correct. There are a whole bunch of hopeless and useless people in this country who can’t be bothered working, and the new touchy, feely attitude of this government is allowing more and more people to get away with it.

How can a region like the Bay of Plenty, which is crying out for workers, have 700 more Jobseekers - Work ready in December 2018 than 12 months earlier. More significantly, the figures say that number rose by nearly 500 from September to December last year alone.

Who is allowing this increase to happen?

Why, when there are labour shortages, and well publicised labour shortages, why are the numbers on the job seeker support payments going up?

Sooner or later, something is going to have to be done. The figures to the end of March 2019 in these categories will be out in a few weeks. If they have gone up yet again, some very serious questions about government policy towards those who don’t want to work will have to be asked.

But you know, I doubt if the attitude and the policy towards the hopeless and the useless will change.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Mornings