Tuesday, May 06, 2014

An empty grab for headlines

National has announced that they'll pay beneficiaries $3,000 to move to Christchurch to take up work. Superficially it seems like a good idea, and that's the point: to grab a cheap headline. Meanwhile the details of the policy make it clear that they don't actually expect anyone to take them up on the offer.

Why not? Firstly, you have to actually have a job offer to get the grant. Given the hassles and costs of intercity (let alone interisland) job-searching, I suspect the number of beneficiaries able to meet that condition will be vanishingly small. Secondly, there's the size of the grant itself; $3,000 - insufficient to pay for relocation unless you are young, single, and live out of a cardboard box (and even then you're still going to have trouble putting up bond money in Christchurch's inflated rental market). And finally there's the requirement that the job last more than 90 days, and if it doesn't, the money must be repaid. Which, thanks to National's 90-day sack-at-will law, makes any such relocation a huge financial risk, and one simply not worth taking. Combined, I think that if we send in an OIA in a year asking how many people have taken up such grants, I think we'll find it to be far lower than budgeted.

Which is a shame, because the idea of WINZ paying people's relocation costs to get them jobs in areas which need workers isn't bad. But it needs to be their actual relocation costs, not some pittance, and it needs to be risk-free for them. Relocating to another city for a job is risky enough, and WINZ should be trying to reduce that risk, rather than pile more on top of it.