'You're asking me to jump the gun' - Jacinda Ardern cagey on forcing those on benefits into work

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has backed away from revealing her view on whether beneficiaries should be forced to work for the dole, saying it needed to be decided by a team - not just her.

The comments come after Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones yesterday said he wants to get young people "off the couch".

Mr Jones is to take a new plan to Cabinet in coming weeks outlining the "Working for your Country" initiative, which he says overlaps in places with Labour's Ready for Work policy, but is more harsh to those refusing to work.

"If you're in receipt of a benefit and not willing to change your lifestyle and get into work, then expect sanctions to be put on you," Mr Jones said.

Ms Ardern, speaking this morning to TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, was pressed on whether she personally supported making it compulsory to work while on the benefit, or risk losing that benefit.

"I'm not going to pre-empt the decision that has to be made by a collective group of people with all the information in front of us," she said.

"You're asking me to jump the gun on a policy announcement."

Ms Ardern did say that some of the current sanctions on beneficiaries requiring them to seek work are harmful to families.

"Some of them are problematic - some of them actually end up depriving kids of the support they need."

She said the Ready For Work scheme is not about compelling people to work, but more about "the dignity of work".

"In the past we've had work for the dole schemes where a person will only receive the amount they would on the dole to do a job that is actually a job that would usually attract at least minimum wage," Ms Ardern said.

"What we are talking about is genuine work, which should lead on to other opportunities, where you would be paid a legal wage."

Ms Ardern wouldn't be drawn on her opinion on whether people should receive a benefit if they flat out refused to work. Source: Breakfast