Sunday, January 16, 2011

NZ's Poor Unemployment Performance in Recession

The Sunday Star Times picks up on a report by the International Labour Organisation that New Zealand, along with Spain, had the worst drop in employment compared to GDP during the worldwide recession.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly notes the relationship to New Zealand's "flexible" labour laws and is summarised as pointing out that:

... there's a growing recognition of the long-term erosion in "human capital" rapid rises in unemployment can bring.

Younger generations are shut out of work for longer, careers are interrupted, ethnic minorities are hit hard, and, it is increasingly often being argued, there seems to be a direct link between innovation and tougher labour market regulation.

I think we've been here before -- and it was called the 1990s.

Of course, the 'he said, she said' style of reporting aways requires comment from a dinosaur neoliberal:

Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable said there was no reason why the country could not function on near full employment, but it should be achieved by "reforming" the welfare system to make it even less attractive not to work, while at the same time lowering the minimum wage and bringing back permanent "youth rates".

Yes, because forcing people to work at below subsistence levels is proven to produce a happy, well-functioning society.

The last paragaph of the article is fankly bizarre:

Although many lost jobs in the Great Recession, not all Kiwi workers lost out. In contributing to an International Monetary Fund review of employment experiences during the crisis, data and opinion supplied by New Zealand officials show a belief employers got rid of less productive workers, the result being that the country's productivity figures could well tick up.

It's well-known that the increase in average productivity tends to slow down during times of full employment because those with the least skills are getting jobs (normally seen as a good thing). The same people tend to be the first to lose jobs when a downturn arrives, so productivity (essentially, just average production per worker) does indeed "tick up". But how this statistical artefact is an objectively good thing, let alone proves that "not all Kiwi workers lost out" is beyond me.

1 comment:

terence said...

Oh yeah that one drives me nuts. Market failures lead to speculative boom, speculative boom leads economic crunch, economic crunch leads to high levels of cyclical unemployment. High levels of cyclical unemployment lead to Roger Kerr concluding we have a structural unemployment issue and welfare dependency. Wonderful...