Delayed Māori employment action plan a 'disgrace' - National's Upston

National's spokesperson for Social Development and Employment, Louise Upston, is accusing the government of not prioritising Māori employment.

This comes as the government's Māori Employment Action Plan has not yet been released despite the intended release date being in December.

Upston says the delay is appalling and an opportunity lost for many Māori.

"You would have thought with Covid-19, in the high levels of unemployment that were expected that actually, it would have brought forward the Māori employment action plan. So not only did they not do that, knowing unemployment was likely to hit Māori harder than other groups but also they haven't delivered it on time.

Statistics from December 2021 show just over 70,800 Māori were receiving the Jobseeker support payment, around 37% of the total number. That number was a drop of around 5,000 from the September quarter.

'Family on the breadline'

"There's a higher need clearly, and Labour hasn't prioritised them. And for every one of those people who are on the Jobseeker benefit, that is someone who's struggling to get by. It's a family who is, you know, living literally on the breadline. But worse than that, it's an opportunity that's been lost for that individual.

"it's a no brainer, that people want to be in work. There are employers all over New Zealand who are desperate for workers. So the fact that this hasn't been a priority for Labour is a disgrace. And we want to make sure that Māori achieve their potential. They're in work, they're getting opportunities, and they're able to provide for themselves and their families," Upston says.

The government has funded initiatives for Māori jobseekers as part of its Covid-19 response, including increased funding for He Poutama Rangatahi and Mana in Mahi, both created before the global pandemic,

Figures released by Stats NZ in November revealed the unemployment rate in NZ fell to below 4%, with the rate falling to fewer than 100,000 people for the first time since 2008.

Te Ao Māori News has asked Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni for comment.