Since National came to power in 2008, there have been a raft of changes to employment law. The Government of Prime Minister John Key says that they are necessary to improve employment opportunities and also give employers better certainty about hiring and firing. But mid way through the third and possible final term of this National-led Government, is it possible for Mr Key to say that they actually work?
When the 90 day trial law came into effect, the Government said it was necessary to ensure that employers could remove employees that were not performing to the desired standard. It claimed that because hiring and firing had been made easier there would be a surge in jobs available. Since then that has not proven to be so – in fact very little change in terms of how people are hired and fired seems to have occurred. The same barriers that make it difficult for people who have disabilities and/or are Maori and/or are on the benefit and/or are young still exist. Only when those barriers are addressed will the Government be able to say employment just got easier.
Another measure introduced by the Government that is not having any positive impact is the youth rates measure, which Simon Bridges introduced. The idea with the youth wage was officially to get young people used to the idea of starting on a lower wage and working into higher ones when they became an adult. Like the legislation that was passed to enable the 90 days trial, little seems to have been achieved by denying younger people the same wage as the rest of the country. Currently there are three classifications of wage in New Zealand:
- The Starting Out Wage, which has three sub categories – 16-17 year olds who have not completed 6 months work with their employer; 18-19 year olds who have been paid a social security benefit for 6 months or more and have not completed 6 months or more of work with an employer since they started on the benefit; 16-19 years who are required by their employers to undertake at least 40 credits a year in order to become qualified
- The Training Wage which is for people doing industry training involving at least 60 credits a year
- The Adult Minimum Wage
Given the problems with housing and living expenses such as food and other necessities, this may seem like a harsh measure. To me it signals that youth are somehow less valuable to society than an adult. The only standard wage that should exist is the minimum wage, which should be applicable to all. It will take a change of Government or some highly improbable radical revision of philosophical standpoint by National for the above to change. But even if Labour do win the election, how keen are they to change it?