Two reports released today by the Ministry of Social Development show the Government’s investment in the COVID-19 response helped drive record numbers of people off Benefits and into work.
It also shows that Main Benefit numbers continue to fall, and young people are leaving the benefit system faster than expected, Social Development and Employment Minister, Carmel Sepuloni said.
“COVID-19 had a significant impact across the benefit system in 2020 and saw a substantial increase in the number of New Zealanders needing support. However, this most recent report shows the system recovered faster than expected, and we did not hit the level of unemployment predicted at the start of the pandemic,” Ms Sepuloni said.
“Compared to what happened following the Global Financial Crisis, the report found that this Government has delivered lower unemployment and fewer people on Main Benefits.”
According to the reports, as at June 2022 there were nearly 23,900 fewer people receiving the Jobseeker Support – Work Ready benefit than at June 2020.
Likewise the Youth Report followed young New Zealanders aged 16-24 through the pandemic to June 2022 and finds that young people were one of the fastest groups to recover from its impact.
“The Government’s fast actions in response to COVID-19, alongside the Ministry of Social Development’s added focus on supporting people into work, training and education has resulted in young people getting back to work faster than expected,” said Ms Sepuloni.
“Initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Boost programme, He Poutama Rangatahi and Mana in Mahi have supported young people into work, apprenticeships, and education as New Zealand moved through COVID-19 and into recovery.”
He Poutama Rangatahi has supported nearly 3,900 rangatahi into employment, education or training since 2018; Mana in Mahi has supported almost 5,800 placements by the end of February 2023; and the Apprenticeship Boost Initiative programme has paid more than 55,800 apprentices to date.
The report found that while there was a significant increase in young people receiving benefits in March 2020, it decreased faster than during the Global Financial Crisis.
“The GFC was the last time we saw a shock to the benefit system like this and it’s pleasing to see we have applied the lessons learned during that crisis well.”
The new data shows that Youth Main Benefit numbers decreased by 22% over the 18 months following the COVID-19 peak in benefits, twice as fast as the 11% decrease over the 18 months following the GFC peak. By June 2022, youth main benefit numbers were closer to pre-pandemic numbers than other age groups.
“While the rapid decreases in young people supported by the benefit system are pleasing, the report also shows that young people who are receiving the main benefit tend to have more complex needs than the general youth population and they will need more support.”
“For example, young people who received a Main Benefit at the end of the September 2021 quarter were 2.4 times more likely to have interacted with Oranga Tamariki in childhood.
“Our investment in employment programmes is paying off. The Government and MSD will continue our focus on assisting New Zealanders into jobs and supporting businesses to find the workers they need,” Minister Sepuloni said.