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23 Feb 2018 19:52
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  •   Home > News > Business

    Labour won't repeat 'closing the gaps'

    Labour will be taking a broader approach to inequality, rather than bringing in policies specifically targeted at Maori, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

    The government won't be funding any big-ticket policies specifically targeted at Maori but its other plans will disproportionately help Maori, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

    The unemployment level among Maori fell to a nine-year low in the December quarter, but at 9 per cent still remained double the national rate, according to official statistics released on Wednesday.

    During her historic speech at Waitangi's Treaty Grounds this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called on those present to hold her government to account on promises about health, education and jobs, saying there was "much work to be done".

    Asked whether the government would be looking to introduce a specifically targeted, large-scale programme - such as the last Labour government's "Closing the Gaps" strategy for Maori and Pacific Islanders - Mr Robertson on Wednesday told Radio NZ that wasn't on the cards.

    "That's not the approach we are taking, but we believe that we will be able to lift a significant number of Maori out of poverty," he said.

    The government's families tax package would do more for Maori than other demographics because of current inequality, Mr Robertson said.

    "Maori will benefit disproportionately from the families package, from these payments, because, at the moment, unfortunately, Maori appear in those negative statistics."

    Where possible - such as in employment schemes - the government would be looking for a more targeted approach, he said.

    "We know we haven't done as well by Maori in that space. That's what the prime minister said at Waitangi and we are committed to reducing those inequalities," he said.

    "We've got a range of programmes coming down the line that will support Maori and the wider population as well."

    Figures released by Stats NZ on Wednesday found 19,000 more Maori, especially young people, had moved into work in the three months to December.

    In the December 2017 year, the number of Maori unemployed fell 21.4 per cent, with the decrease mainly coming among those aged 20 to 29 years.

    The underutilisation rate fell from 23.1 per cent to 21.6 per cent.

    "Together, unemployment and underutilisation provide a broader picture of people wanting more work," Stats NZ labour market and household statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said.

    © 2018 NZN, NZCity

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