Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

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Yellow Peril: Well, you all asked them for a 'national' vision...

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  • Moz,

    I can't help feeling that someone in there has got the hates for labour so bad that anything, anything at all that will twist their knickers seems good. Maybe they think there's a big group of rich, right-wing Maori out there that have been hiding for the last 200 years...

    Or perhaps "politics consists of repeatedly doing things that haven't worked in the past hoping that something will chasnge".

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1222 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    Hmmm I remember many years ago signing up for the Dole when I was going through a very brief "in between careers" phase. As I recall there was no work for the dole approach but there were a few compulsory workshops to teach me how to market myself to a prospective employer.

    Basically they were 3 hour wankfests that took up valuable time that I could have been job searching (in fact I got told off for missing one even though I'd had a job interview that clashed).

    Now I accept while the workshops/seminars weren't for me they could have been valuable to others , however I found them frustrating and of limited value.

    And that's what I fear will happen with work for the dole. People will get conscripted into mindless and limited value tasks taking up time they should be using to look for work.

    If we're that worried about people staying on the dole long term and simply being bludgers then there's an easy solution. Prove they're milking, then take their benefit off them.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    A few years ago I was on a panel at the National Young Writers Festival in Australia, talking about artists on the dole.

    Australia has a work-for-the-dole programme, with mixed results. The schemes are outsourced to community groups like the Salvation Army, and I heard a horror story from a guy who had to show up and make comic books for a week as his work-for-the-dole requirement. They weren't allowed to do any "real" work, because that would take away work from real workers.

    On the other hand, there was a fellow who had run a theatre workshop with a group of unemployed people. It sounds hideous, but it wasn't. A lot of the group had never had any involvement with theatre before, but they ended up getting so into it that they were happily showing up every day, and on time, something that is apparently uncommon on WFD programmes!

    Working for the dole shouldn't feel like a punishment - like periodic detention-style crap work. It should remind people on the dole that work can be an enjoyable, rewarding experience.

    here were a few compulsory workshops to teach me how to market myself to a prospective employer.

    Five years ago I was on the dole and had do to the week-long Worktrack programme. My fellow course attendees were mostly blokes looking for manual labour jobs and teenage girls who maybe wanted to be make-up artists, but weren't sure. Many of them told me how intelligent I was, which doesn't often happen outside the dole office.

    After two different tutors attempted to teach us how to "think outside the box" by doing a join-the-dots exercise where you literally had to draw a line outside a box, I began to feel really really depressed. The pressure was there for me to get a shitty job just so they could tick a box, but I managed to avoid that fate.

    However the next year, still dole scum, I moved on to the PACE programme and did a part-time year-long course called New Space for artistically inclined people who just needed a kick in the pants to translate their talent into paid work.

    And indeed it kicked me in the pants, sorted through all my bullshit, and helped me figure out what I wanted to do more than any Myers-Briggs test ever did. And it lead to full-time employment in an entirely awesome job that uses my talents.

    Things are working.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It would be interesting to know whether Sharples is actually familiar with the arguments. Perhaps he'll change his mind, the way he did over Wayne Mapp's probationary employment bill.

    Anyway, the Maori Party isn't a party of the left and won't be while Turia is there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Prove they're milking, then take their benefit off them.

    Great idea, the kids who happen to be lumped with 'dole bludging' parens will love it. We'd create a new class of urban hunter gatherers living off the land in a post-industrial wasteland. In the short term they will hate us middle class people with all our educated privelege but when western society finally collapses they'll thanks us for it.

    Anyway, the Maori Party isn't a party of the left and won't be while Turia is there.

    No, as the title implies its a party of (and for) Maori. The left and the right polarity of the Pakeha political spectrum is rendered largely irrelevant if your kaupapa is improve the political-economic status because

    a. if ideas work then you promote them regardless of whether they are left or right wing ideas (i.e. pragmatism vs ideology).

    and b. the political left and right of Aotearoa are not to be trusted to do right by Maori. So aligning yourself with one or the other is a waste of time.

    Back to the kaupapa of the post - I grew up in a single parent family during the 80s and 90s in rural Aotearoa and I can tell you from first hand experience that right wing welfare policies do not work. Unless the aim is to teach people how to shoplift, raid the local orchard, draw and maintain maps of all availiable food sources in a 20km radius, etc etc. (I was only half joking about urban hunter-gatherers, I was one for about 10 years of my childhood after the mother of all budgets.)

    But there seems little point in discussing the idea in this forum as its not policy yet so who knows what universal work for dole would actually mean. While I'm waiting for details I think I'd rather spend my time emailing my MP, Papa Pita, to tell him it sounds like a stupid idea.

    Btw, this kind of hardline on welfare is a meme in the history of Maori MPs. For example Ta Apirina Ngata supported paying Maori one 5th of what unemployed got during the Great Depression. He feared welfare dependency as much as Aunty Tariana seems to. Altho his reasons may have been a little more valid - I think he hoped that the lack of welfare money would encourage Maori to stay on and utilise their land. This was in the days that Maori 'waste land' was forfeited to the governement. That hardly applies today.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    No, as the title implies its a party of (and for) Maori. The left and the right polarity of the Pakeha political spectrum is rendered largely irrelevant if your kaupapa is improve the political-economic status because

    Shoud've have read

    No, as the title implies its a party of (and for) Maori. The left and the right polarity of the Pakeha political spectrum is rendered largely irrelevant if your kaupapa is to improve the political-economic status of Maori people because:

    Never post before the first coffee of the day, never.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    'I hate Auntie' or 'Uncle Tom' or both? But I don't have the solution for high Maori dole dependency either. I don't even know if it's a problem.

    I can imagine it's stink to be on the dole if you don't want to be but can't live otherwise. But apart from people who are physically or mentally incapable of work (and should be on a different benefit?), I tend to think most people will get off it when they can, and that's great. That's the point. That worked.

    There is a small group who really are too lazy too work. Should we force them to? Does it really matter? Isn't it their choice to be comfortable living in impoverishment?

    I couldn't give a stuff if Maori are overrepresented. I see that as most likely because of historical reasons than for cultural or racial reasons. I don't think the Maori party will have the answers just because they are Maori either. If being Maori gave you the answer to the problem, then they wouldn't be overrepresented in the first place.

    Would have expected more from a Professor of Education. Indeed, I would have thought he'd see education as the solution, since it was *his* solution. Hell, I could almost understand 'Education for the Dole', having lived through it myself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10646 posts Report Reply

  • Terence Wood,

    That's a really great post.

    There's only one thing I'd quibble with: that is that if I recall correctly the number of longterm unemployed as a percentage of overall unemployed probably isn't decreasing. I could be mistaken here but I think you'll find that while, absolute numbers of long term unemployed may be decreasing, because frictional and other short term unemployment is very very low right now, the long term component of overall unemployment is probably higher than usual.

    Nevertheless, it is still a small absolute number and I'm always surprised by the sound an fury (and disproportionate responses) the problem generates.

    Polly Toynbee, had some pretty sensible things to say about the same issue in England recently:

    But yesterday Hutton shook a threatening stick at those he regards as social-contract defaulters. He made a good case: one in 10 of those who draw jobseeker's allowance has spent six of the past seven years on benefits, yet in many areas there are unfilled low-skilled jobs alongside high rates of unemployment. If the jobs are there, why don't they take them? He picked on Glasgow, which has above average unemployment and twice as many unskilled vacancies as the national average.

    Is it that simple? There is a very grey line between the plain idle and those who are illiterate, mentally unfit, psychologically odd, ex-prisoners, unattractive to employers, non-English speakers (Labour has stopped free English courses), drug addicts, alcoholics and other bad prospects. In Glasgow, for example, what are these vacancies? Mostly part-time hotel and catering, bar work and waitering with unsocial hours. Those running programmes to help the unemployed into work say these are student jobs, or for young foreigners: the hardcore unemployed are simply not equipped to do this work. Many live on peripheral estates miles out of town with no night buses back - a taxi costs three hours' work at the minimum-wage.

    I think her description of the real problems faced by long term unemployed - rater than just apathy - is probably pretty true here too.

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report Reply

  • Tze Ming Mok,

    if I recall correctly the number of longterm unemployed as a percentage of overall unemployed probably isn't decreasing. I could be mistaken here but I think you'll find that while, absolute numbers of long term unemployed may be decreasing, because frictional and other short term unemployment is very very low right now, the long term component of overall unemployment is probably higher than usual.

    I won't pretend to know what frictional unemployment is, but, failing to find an easy line-graph, I have just done rough calculations of the long-term unemployed figures for September 2006 (20% of all unemployed), 2005 (19.6%) and 2004 (22%). I can't find previous Septembers, but June 2002 is about 28%, June 2001 about 30%. This is all from the Household Labour Force Survey. And here's slightly longer view from the Social Report 2006, also based on the HLFS:

    In 2005, 22 percent of the surveyed unemployed ...had been unemployed for a continuous period of six months or more [the standard classification for 'long term'], a decline from 23 percent in 2004. The 2005 level of long-term unemployment was just under that recorded in 1986 (23 percent) and substantially lower than the peak of 53 percent in 1992.

    As far as I can tell, there has been a fall in the proportion of long-term unemployment as a percentage of all unemployment in the last six years.

    SarfBank, Lunnin' • Since Nov 2006 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • the E,

    Key must be Mr Big.

    How can he applaud raising the minimum wage yet also support people working for the dole? Which is far less than the minimum wage.

    I have been on the dole a couple of times, for a couple of weeks each time, & the workshops I was forced to attend were agonisingly boring as well as insulting to the intelligence of the attendees. They also prevented us from looking for work!

    wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • Terence Wood,

    Thanks Tze Ming, I stand corrected!

    oh, and frictional unemployment is just a fancy name for the short term unemployment of people in between jobs.

    The wikipedia has a good entry on unemployment types

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I've been on the dole in both Oz and NZ, but never long enough to get into the training/work for the dole side of things. But I've spent a bit of time with government-employed activists and the bureaucrazy seems to have two main aims: keep the unemployed off the streets, and make it sufficiently irritating to stay on the dole that anyone who can, gets a job.

    The WFD stuff seems largely to work, in that it keeps people too busy to find a job without giving them any useful skills. As an employer the WFD people mostly suck, it usually becomes obvious quite quickly why they're long-term unemployed, but if you tell the dole office that the person will lose their benefit for months (6?), so few employers will do that if they can avoid it. Or more accurately, the ones who would generally don't bother with WFD - there's no money in it, the low wages are compensated for by the high supervision and admin costs. There are other subsidies for taking on unemployed people, not sure of the details though.

    Depending on your situation and skills some of the WFD stuff can work out really well - there's a bit of PEP-style environmental work available, and some theatre-type course etc. But for the most part the charities that administer this stuff seem to focus on getting you doing low-value makework just to keep you out of the way. Unfortunately it's not optional, and it is usually a pain to do.

    But in Oz they have moved past "if you can" to "anyone at all gets a job or loses their benefit". The penalties for minor stuff-ups are now at the insane level, such that even if the bureaucrazy don't stuff up and get you penalised, any change in circumstances on your part will likely cost you the benefit. Unexpected income can screw you for months as different bits of the bureacrazy argue about the appropriate level of penalty to apply, and accuse you of fraud if what you paid is less than what they think you should have. Especially if that is what some other part said. Changing addresses is likely to lead to all sorts of hell, as "you must do this within one week (including postal delays) or lose your benefit" letters go to random locations with extended delays for Aus Post redirection if you're silly enough to get that applied. There is no acceptable excuse, BTW, not getting the letter does not mean you don't get penalised. At best, the penalty will be retroactively waived... so to be on the dole you need to keep a few hundred in the bank to deal with the payment delays and hiccups (this is a feature, not a bug).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1222 posts Report Reply

  • dave c,

    Hey there are a couple of things worth mentioning.
    1. About 40 percent of short term unemployed people who get jobs go back on the benefit within 6 months - and the cycle starts again.
    2. There are plenty of work for the dole schemes that are in place currently that are getting people meaningful work after a few weeks work experience.
    3. Those who are referred to such places and refuse to take part are not usually work tested, so in these cases theres no consequences if you dont take part.
    4. Not all work experience programmes are mindless - but are more likely to have a positive outcone than task force green.
    5. Pita Sharples sounds like he is not even aware of the above. I suspect this is a reaction to families like the Kahuis who need to get off their buts and stop wasting their on booze all day. So RB is right, i think.

    welli • Since Jan 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Sharples is assuming that the long term unemployed will actually attend the makework schemes and get their dole - as opposed to begging, drug-dealing, stealing and other renumerative activities.

    The fact is, a lot of people on the dole *do* work - they just don't declare it - benefits aren't enough to live on so people supplant them in the informal economy. Often, they'd lose out if they tried to sign off and get an official job because they can't earn enough to match the income from dole + casual jobs.

    The answer to this which recognises how people *actually* live is a Universal Basic Income - which is quite the opposite of makework schemes.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    4. Not all work experience programmes are mindless - but are more likely to have a positive outcone than task force green.

    I've always had a soft spot for Taskforce Green, ever since a bunch of us used it to get off the dole and publish Planet magazine in the early 90s. It paid the same as the dole, but you could get on with doing stuff, and legitimately earn additional income. And it was so loosey-goosey at the time (National was desperate to cut official benefit numbers) that you could do pretty much anything.

    It set me up to earn quite good money a couple of years later - I think I repaid my little handout from the taxpayer quite quickly - and it played a part in the growth of a new sector of retail advertising.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • kerry w,

    As all the above posts show, "the unemployed" are a hugely various bunch of people and there is no "catch all" scheme to address all situations. I agree with RB about the old Taskforce Green schemes and indeed, i recall in the late 80s an innovative PEP scheme in Hawkes Bay that taught log-building skills, flax weaving & kiln-fired brick making at what was to become the Otatara Arts Centre on the hill behind EIT, in the 90s. A number of those taught on those schemes went on to work in the building industry, became art students & later artists in their own right. Otatara got a log house for use with visiting Artist-in -residence schemes at the polytech, a huge area was paved with handmade bricks, and an artists' colony was born - one much loved and used by contempoarary maori artists under the auspices of Paratene Matchitt & Jacob Scott.

    We need to think of our people as long term investments and aren't they the best kind?

    Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • kerry w,

    And of course you realise that the Labour Government , on it's way to 'One benefit for all', now considers parents on the DPB to be unemployed? And subject to all the same work tests becoz there is no excuse to stay home with the kids now there is so much "free" daycare?? And there is no larger remuneration given to mothers or fathers in recognition of their parental role than the pittance given to the usual unemployed?

    In a country rife with reported abuse and family meltdown into something far more feral, the most vulnerable children are having their ties to the most important person in their life (their source of security, stability & love) weakened. And the purpose of this is?? To get all those lazy mums out to work? To get their kids safely into the arms of daycare workers where they can be 'monitored' by these ad hoc secret police ? Every mother on the DPB knows that when she takes her child to the Emergency Department, that child will be thoroughly checked over for signs of abuse and if her children play up at school, that will also be blamed on 'home'. Good single parents do their work in a climate of fear. This has gone on for 15-20 years at least.

    The funny thing is, this climate of mistrust, blame and witch-hunting has done nothing to stem the tide of abused and murdered children. All children need to be loved by someone who spends lots of time with them and is deeply involved in their lives. Dumping on single parents is NOT the way to happy, healthy childhoods which in turn generate happy, healthy adulthoods.

    I wish Someone would get a grip in this country.

    Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • amandajkennedy,

    During the four months between finishing university and leaving the country for an interesting, well-paid job overseas, I worked at the part-time job I'd had for two years and loved. I was getting a top-up from Winz, ideally until I left, which worked well until they told me I would have to quit my steady, professional job and find full-time work.

    Under threat of withdrawing the top-up, they sent me to workshops where they kept us locked outside for half an hour before letting us in to read the job sections of newspapers and use computers with three-week-old lists of depressing jobs. They had an expert write a new CV for me - it absolutely screamed "I've been on the dole, how about you" with phrases like "I am seeking to re-enter the workforce" and "I am willing to work on an unpaid basis with assistance from government departments." Ugh. In the end I gave up the top-up and just budgeted to within an inch of my life in order to keep my dignity and the job I enjoyed.

    On the DPB note... my solo-mum grandmother had no DPB and had to work long hours while her five kids ran riot at home with no shoes and nothing to eat. If she and people like her had had a benefit to allow her to raise them properly, it's entirely possible there would be far fewer f=ck-ups in the newspapers these days making us all despair. Now that there IS a benefit to help struggling parents, for heaven's sake, don't lets let politicians start removing good parents from their homes, eh.

    Japan • Since Nov 2006 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Just heard Papa Pita's interview on bFM's The Wire.

    It's clear he hasn't actually done anything in the way of policy work but he did provide some details.

    He acknowledged the failure of the prior WFD scheme(s), citing poor design, inadequate funding and draconian entry requirements. He operated a scheme, presumably out of Hoani Waititi marae in west Akl, and said they were only allowed to provide services to people with a serious lack in formal education and/or learning impediments.

    Interestingly he said people on WFD should be paid the minimum wage, which will satisfy the worker/human rights lot on cheap labour issues, but is it financially viable? My question is can a WFD union then be set up? That would be fun.

    Other vague details were "other conditions to ensure transition from WFD to real work", and the WFD would be more fully combined with job seeking (actual and skills). He said only constructive projects would be approved, so its seems upskilling WFD workers would be cumpolsory for schemes.

    Not sure if that will gel with the bloc of unemployed that do have huge education and learning challenges?

    His justification for WFD is definitley in the vein of Ta Apirana's position about Maori welfare dependency, it's a 'work will set you free' ideal he was reaching for.

    He cracked me up when he said he didn't care what his constituents thought or what National's position was - said if his power base didn't like his ideas then he'd get what he'd deserve at the ballot box. he's definitely a pragmatist rather than a politican, meaning i beleive he doesn't care about politics, but does care about policies that work.

    Still waiting for details though.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    O, and to address the patai in Tze Ming's post: I'm on the Maori role and voted for Papa Pita last time. His and the parties support of any WFD scheme would not be a major influence in how I vote next time. There are simply more important issues than this for Maori that I think only the Maori party can address.

    In fact his willingness to risk offending his contituencies for something he clearly believes will bear positive results only makes my continued support for him more likely... despite the fact I don't necessarily agree with some of his perspective.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Sonic,

    I was on a work for the Dole scheme in the 90's. We built a fence.

    Sound cr*p but we were proud of it, it took 6 months but it was the best damn fence in the area, played a useful purpose in keeping kids away from a busy railway line.

    The next group's first job was to tear it down, they were tasked with building a wall.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    [long-time listener; first time commenter]

    The Song Remains The Same.

    Let's not forget that Key's speech is more about politics than policy. It's the same old appeal to "common sense" that we saw in '05's "Who wouldn't want more of *your* money returned to *you*?" In fact, is it not just a retread of Orewa '03 (or was it '04?)? If dole-bludging is their flagship issue of the moment, it demonstrates that nothing's changed under Key. He may be a charming leader, rather than a creepy one, but the same cynical approach remains; driftnet all the suckers with meaningless nationalism (nationalisticism?) against an obvious minority target.

    This just in: Key supports apple pie and motherhood - if you do too, vote National.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Pita Sharples was interviewed on bFM this afternoon about his work-for-the-dole comments.

    I think he's a decent man, and well motivated, but he really didn't seem to know what he was talking about.

    At one point he said for it to work the dole would have to be brought up to the level of the minimum wage, and that's just not going to happen. Then he declared that there were too many jobs - he cited checkout work and cleaning - that were dehumanising and weren't real work. But someone has to do them, surely?

    And he said there needed to be centres where unemployed people could go and be directed into real jobs. What does he think Work and Income does?

    There have been some real successes with targeted schemes to help people into work in recent years - Work and Income's "Pacific Wave" scheme halved unemployment among Pacific Islanders in Auckland in two years. Unemployment among Pacific Islanders under 25 fell by nearly two thirds. W&I has similar targeted schemes for Maori.

    He didn't reference National's WFD scheme at all. In the end, I think what he wants is much better resourced iwi-based employment projects. That might be a laudable goal. But it's got bugger-all to do with work for the dole.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    "he's definitely a pragmatist rather than a politican"

    Of course he's a politician - running for election makes you a politician straight away. Any one who says they aren't, be they Bob the Bollox or George Bush is full of it. Plus, on the evidence of his policies, he's a rather right-wing politician.

    I wouldn't vote for a right-wing "Recent English Immigrants" party even if they promised to make our cricket team win something.. I don't quite see why Maori need to feel obliged to vote for the Maori Party against their political judgment. Metiria Turei is Maori and has much better and more thought out policies, IMHO.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Metiria Turei is Maori and has much better and more thought out policies, IMHO.

    That's how I see it too. I like Sharples, but Turia sometimes says stuff I'd be appalled by no matter who said it. Her conspiratorial press release on the reviews of the dioxin studies being this week's example.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

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