New Zealand is not immune to the global economic impacts of COVID-19, but our strong health response means we’re now in a better position than many other countries. We’re taking advantage of this headstart by rolling out our plan to protect jobs, create new ones and grow our economy – and now is not the time to put on the brakes.
We’ve always said a strong health response was the best economic response, and the latest Treasury figures show that our approach is working. New Zealand’s economy is doing better than forecast, with lower unemployment and higher growth expected.
Unemployment is expected to peak at 7.8% in the March 2022 quarter, down from a forecast peak of 9.8% in the Budget. This is lower than most other countries, including Australia, which is expected to hit 10%, and the United States and Canada, which both recorded peaks above 13%.
There are challenges ahead, but through our five-point rebuild plan, we’ll continue to protect and create jobs, keep unemployment down, grow the economy, and support New Zealanders.
We’ve already seen 30,000 exits from benefits since the lockdown. We were quick to support local redeployment opportunities, so people impacted by COVID-19 could get back to work sooner on transport and water projects, and we’ve already started rolling out other initiatives that create jobs and help people into work.
Through our environmental jobs programme, we’re creating almost 11,000 new jobs right around the country, helping to clean up our waterways and protect our native wildlife. We’ve invested in ‘double duty’ shovel-ready infrastructure projects that create jobs now, while also improving our communities and building a better New Zealand for future generations. We’ve also made all apprenticeships, and targeted trades training, free to enable people to upskill for the jobs we need for our rebuild.
On top of this, we’ve committed to support up to 40,000 more people into work, or help them start their own business, by expanding the Flexi-Wage scheme. This will support the people most likely to be hardest hit by the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19. We’ve also committed to lifting the abatement threshold so people working while on a main benefit can keep more of what they earn. This will increase the financial incentive to stay in, or take up, part-time work, which can be a really important step toward finding full-time work.
And we’ll continue to invest in projects through our long-term infrastructure pipeline, creating new jobs and ensuring our communities have the hospitals, schools, roads and clean energy they need for the future.
Together, these initiatives will help more New Zealanders stay in work or retrain for new jobs, and help us to keep the unemployment rate down. Investing in our people, businesses and vital services is all part of our plan to keep New Zealand – and our economy – moving as we rebuild together. You can read more about our plan here.