Wednesday 3 November 2021

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and Sense Partners release reports on Māori labour market

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and Sense Partners congratulate the Government on a record low unemployment rate, after Tatauranga Aoteaora: Stats NZ today reported that unemployment has fallen to 3.4 percent in the three months to the end of September.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu Pouārahi Helen Leahy says that while these numbers are to be celebrated, there is still work to be done to address unemployment for Māori.

“Today’s figures reflect the urgent and decisive action of Government in balancing the measures needed to protect our country from the realities of COVID-19, against support for those individuals and businesses affected by those measures,” says Ms Leahy. “We now need to see the same urgency and decisiveness directed to the development and implementation of a Māori employment strategy.”

Earlier this year, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu commissioned Sense Partners to provide advice on labour market scarring post-recession, in order to understand the issues faced by whānau Māori and the ways that these could be addressed. Sense Partners were also asked to reconcile rapidly rising JobSeeker Support recipients and demand for welfare services against official statistics showing a decline in the Māori unemployment rate.

Sense Partners’ economist Shamubeel Eaqub says that the two reports Addressing Labour Market Scarring in a Recession and Measuring Māori Labour Market Intervention Needs confirm that a) the pandemic has amplified existing persistent employment disadvantages for Māori and b) the methodology and data used to obtain official employment statistics over-estimates employment growth and under-estimates joblessness for Māori, particularly in Te Waipounamu.

“Official statistics on unemployment have diverged significantly from the number of people on Jobseeker support, a trend that has continued over the past quarter even as the official unemployment rate has fallen,” says Mr Eaqub. “It is concerning that benefit statistics and the official unemployment rate are telling such a different story.”

The divergence between JobSeeker Support numbers and the data gathered by the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS – the measure used by Statistics NZ to determine the unemployment rate) could be because beneficiaries are discouraged, or because the HLFS is undercounting some groups.

“There is very good reason to be cautious about HLFS trends, particularly for Māori,” says Mr Eaqub. “The divergence between HLFS and benefit statistics is acute across ethnic lines, and the largest for Māori. The benefit statistics were around 6,600 higher than HLFS five years ago. Today it is 45,500.”

This is consistent with much larger survey errors in the HLFS for Māori, especially those who live away from larger urban areas. The divergence is growing, and alongside other findings from the two attached reports, means that it is more pressing than ever that the Government address Māori unemployment.

“We hope that the stark reality outlined by the findings in these reports galvanise Government into action,” says Ms Leahy. “Most importantly, we want to see Māori voices at the heart of this conversation, designing and leading the solutions that will work best for them.”

Ms Leahy acknowledges that active labour market policies are already in place, but says that these need to be urgently scaled up and prioritise different cohorts. The current approach prioritises job search assistance, while the reports suggest that medium-term success requires urgent and increased investment in skills training and the transition of the unemployed into work. She respectfully calls for Government to work with Māori to address this.

“Time and again it has been demonstrated that Māori-led solutions have the greatest chance of success, and Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu stands alongside the wider Whānau Ora network to support the development of a Māori employment strategy that will truly work for Māori.”

Click here for the reports

Sense Report One Labour Market Scarring Issues and Options to address labour market scarring in a recession

Sense Report Two Measuring Māori labour market intervention needs Looking beyond HLFS


For media enquiries, please contact:

Helen Leahy – 021 881 031

Shamubeel Eaqub – 021 573 218

Anna Brankin – 021 190 2893