Over 13,000 more people are on a benefit seeking work than a year ago.
Latest benefit figures show that in December 2019, 147,464 people were receiving the Jobseeker Support benefit. That compares to just over 134,000 the year before – a 10 percent increase.
In total there are over 314,000 New Zealanders on a benefit of some sort. That’s a five percent increase on the year before. The number of people on all benefits has increased.
These figures come amid a low unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent.
But Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says that represents 10.5 per cent of the working population – lower than the 11.2 per cent five years ago.
Special needs grants, which include emergency housing needs grants have increased year on year.
Mrs Sepuloni says that’s largely down to the cost of housing.
“As Minister of Social Development, I want to ensure that people are able to access their full and correct entitlements and that’s what you’re seeing here. We are stabilising people’s situations, putting a roof over their heads, meeting their immediate needs so they can focus on getting into work,” she says.
Mrs Sepuloni is pointing to quarterly figures showing nearly 19,000 people cancelled their benefit and went into work in the last few months of the year.
The Government is set to announce how it’ll spend its promised $12 billion on infrastructure next week and Mrs Sepuloni says that will create work opportunities for many people.
National’s social development spokeswoman Louise Upston says the government has dropped the ball on welfare.
She says while the numbers of people on the dole are skyrocketing, the number of meetings between beneficiaries and their case managers has nosedived from more than 200,000 meetings every three months under the previous government, to just 90,000 now.
But Mrs Sepuloni says Budget 2019 funded more case workers.