Order Paper and questions

Questions for oral answer

3. Welfare Reforms—Work Testing

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3. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Social Development: How will the Government’s proposed welfare changes give greater flexibility to support beneficiaries back into work?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : As part of the Government’s focus on strengthening work obligations and incentives, we are introducing more flexibility in the part-time and full-time work tests. This means that there is going to be a change in the hours of work someone is required to undertake. There will be more of a range around the 15-hour, part-time work test and the 30-hour, full-time work test.

Tim Macindoe: Why is the Government making this change to the part-time and full-time work tests?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The previous policy settings have led to an arbitrary restriction, really, on the range of jobs that beneficiaries could be referred to or are required to accept. We also saw unnecessary circumstances where someone working 12 or 13 hours was still subject to a work test, when perhaps that was their capability for that week and made sense. So this is about backing people into work and ensuring the benefit system has a degree of flexibility around it.

Tim Macindoe: What trends are we seeing for people coming off a benefit and into work?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It would be fair to say that there has been some talk of late around where those jobs are and what has been happening out there, so I thought we would look at the evidence. For example, the household labour force survey says that 62,000 jobs were created over the past 2 years. The ANZ bank job report for January says 30,000 positions are available across the country. Work and Income has 1,300 to 1,500 vacancies coming in each week, quite frankly, from employers, and 3,500 jobs on its books at any one time. Last year 80,000 people went off benefits and into work. That is actually one person for every minute of every working day.