Govt to bolster MSD for likely benefit numbers spike

Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: NZ Herald
Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: NZ Herald
The Government is bolstering the Ministry of Social Development to prepare it for the coming wave of new jobless New Zealanders applying for the benefit.

New Zealand's unemployment rate is expected to increase dramatically because of the economic impacts of Covid-19.

Treasury secretary Caralee McLiesh said this week that she expected the unemployment rate to rise to between 5% and "well into double digits".

That's a significant increase on the current 4.3% unemployment rate.

Speaking to the Nation this morning, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government was expecting more people to go onto the benefit and to cope with the increase, the Ministry of Social Development would be beefed up.

"We're working alongside MSD to boost their capacity. We do know there will be more people unemployed, so we have to be there to support them."

Robertson said this week the impact of Covid-19 would be a "quantum" worse than that of the 2008/09 global financial crisis (GFC), when unemployment rose to 6.7%.

"We want to make sure that if people do end up out of work they do end up being supported through MSD," he said.

It is understood the number of people applying for the unemployment befit has increased dramatically in the past month.

This is perhaps not surprising, given the country is at level four lockdown any many businesses are unable to operate.

But the Government has yet to provide data on how many new people have applied for the benefit.

National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the Government should be providing that type of data much quicker so people could see in real time the impact of the Government's decisions.

"The Prime Minister is quick to share worse-case scenarios on the health front; they should trust New Zealanders to see the same on the economic front."

He said the US Government provided weekly unemployment updates.

Independent economist Cameron Bagrie agrees with Goldsmith and says New Zealanders are in an "information vacuum".

"The Government needs to start releasing weekly benefit numbers so we can get timely information on how things are evolving.

Robertson said the Government would release up-to-date statistics next week on how many people had applied for the benefit in March.


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