7 May 2014

Agency questions jobless incentive

6:21 am on 7 May 2014

A Christchurch recruitment agency is questioning whether there will be enough construction jobs for the unemployed to go into as part of a new scheme announced on Tuesday.

The Government is offering $3000 to beneficiaries outside of the city who have a job offer there, to help them relocate and get set up in accommodation.

170414. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Christchurch. Buildtech sign

The rebuild has lowered unemployment to well below the national average. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

As part of this year's Budget $3.5 million is being made available to up to 1000 unemployed people.

The Government said with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent in Christchurch, compared to 6 percent nationally, there were plenty of opportunities in construction, retail and hospitality.

But Select Recruitment managing director Karen Bardwell said the rebuild had yet to kick into high gear and the demand for low to medium skilled workers simply wasn't there.

She said some firms have had to close after initially increasing staff numbers in anticipation of large amounts of work that never arrived.

Ms Bardwell said the Government needed to provide more certainty for construction companies around when they should increase their staffing levels and that until this happened, many would view increasing their workforce as a risky proposition.

Leighs Construction managing director Anthony Leighs said it would be a few months at least before he had a need for the types of workers likely to come from the ranks of the unemployed.

Mr Leighs said at this stage he only needed construction professionals including quantity surveyors and project managers.

Another with interests in the construction sector, Ernest Duval, said the initiative was worth a shot.

He said people coming off a benefit had an opportunity to get a foothold in the industry and work their way up.

Beneficiaries' Advisory Service spokesperson Rebecca Occleston said accommodation would be a challenge for the new workers who were unlikely to be earning high wages in a city with sky-rocketing rents.

Ms Occleston said even a relatively small increase in rent could make a big difference to somebody on a modest income.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said there was unlikely to be a flood of former beneficiaries arriving on the city's doorstep all of a sudden.

He envisaged only 200 to 300 taking advantage of the scheme in the first six months and said beneficiaries would be case managed by Work and Income to ensure they were placed in appropriate jobs.

The one-off payments will be available from July.