Jacinda Ardern defends jobseeker benefit rise after questioning by Simon Bridges

The Prime Minister defended the rise of New Zealanders on jobseeker benefits, after questioning in the House by Opposition Leader Simon Bridges today. 

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Ms Ardern said the working-age population on benefits was still lower than when the previous National Government left office. Source: 1 NEWS

"Why have unemployed on the dole gone up some 14,000 and children in benefit-dependent homes 8000 in the last year?" the National leader asked. 

Recent statistics showed New Zealanders on the jobseeker benefit jumped 11.2 per cent in a year, increasing by almost 14,000 people since June 2018. 

"That should also be caveated with the fact that, and I'm going from my memory here, roughly 17,000 have come off the benefit in that period of time," Jacinda Ardern told Mr Bridges during question time. 

"Also...the percentage of the working-age population who are on benefits is still lower than when that [National] government left office."

The Ministry of Social Development's benefit data for the June 2019 quarter showed a 5.2 per cent jump in the number of working-age people receiving main benefits in the last year. It showed 291,969 working-age people on a benefit, which was 9.7 per cent of the working-age population.

Earlier this month, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni told 1 NEWS the benefit numbers needed to be looked at in perspective, keeping in mind there had been population growth and the number of people on a main benefit was lower than figures since 2016. 

Ms Sepuloni pointed out the percentage of the working age population on a benefit, which now sits at 9.7 per cent, was 9.6 per cent in June 2017, 9.9 per cent in June 2016, 10.3 per cent in 2015 and 10.8 per cent in June 2014. 

Yesterday, figures released showed the number of unemployed people in New Zealand fell by 7000 to 3.9 per cent, its lowest in 11 years. Overall, the total number of unemployed people was 109,000.

Sean Broughton of Stats NZ said the unemployment rate had been tracking down since late 2012, "towards levels seen before the global financial crisis in 2008".