This oped is written for Magic Talk by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
OPINION: This week we moved into the second half of 2020, and we saw some big changes come into effect.
This past Wednesday, the 1st of July, paid parental leave increased for the second time under this Government, up to 26 weeks. This was something we promised as part of our 2017 election campaign, and it was one of the first things we put into place when we came into Government. Extending this leave builds on our work to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealand families, and helps to make sure new parents get the time they need to spend with their little one, without the pressure of returning to work. Back at the start of our term, we decided the best way was to implement the extension in two parts: extending to 22 weeks in 2018, and then all the way to 26 weeks in 2020. In 2019, we increased the maximum leave payment by $20, and we increased it again by another $20 this year. Alongside some of our other initiatives to support families in New Zealand, it’s so exciting to see paid parental leave now fully rolled out and delivered.
1 July this year also meant the commencement of free apprenticeships and trades training. This now allows New Zealanders to upskill and retrain for jobs at no cost to them. This policy is at the core of what we’re doing as Government right now: creating jobs, helping people stay in work, and training people up for jobs in the future. This also means a boost for our skilled workforce – something we need with our record investment in infrastructure around the country. We’ve backed this initiative up with our Apprenticeship Boost package that supports businesses with up to $16,000 to take on new apprentices or keep their current ones – alongside a number of other measures we put in place pre-COVID, like the Mana in Mahi – Strength in Work scheme.
Other changes kicked off on the 1st July include a pay boost for early childhood teachers, the start of the Farm Debt Mediation scheme, and the introduction of cheaper building levies, which will help cut costs for homeowners and businesses. All of these changes will make a major difference to the lives of New Zealanders, and will shape the future of our country.
It’s clear we were successful at stamping out community transmission of COVID-19 because we went hard and early; it’s also clear we laid strong foundations to recover, like the work we’d already put in place to support families or encourage trades training. As we move into July and beyond, I’m very excited to see many of the investments announced in this year’s Budget rolling out and begin the economy as it starts to grow again.