Labour is questioning whether there are enough jobs to support the Government's overhaul of the welfare system.
Welfare reforms, announced today, will help 30,000 beneficiaries to rejoin the workforce, the Government says.
Major new changes include financial incentives for young people to go into training or courses and sending widows and women over 50 who live alone back to work, depending on the age of their children.
Single parents may also have to get back into work earlier, as part time work obligations will be applied to Domestic Purposes Benefit recipients when their child turns five, rather than six. They will be full-time work tested when their youngest child is 14.
Labour's welfare spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says the reforms leave some questions unanswered.
"Do these parents have the training and education they need to move into work? Are they able to set up care arrangements for their children? And most importantly, are the jobs there?" she said.
"A 2009 paper on sole parents found 67% of those available for work had problems getting work that paid enough, 66% couldn't find work for enough hours for it to be worthwhile, and 64% didn't have the skills employers wanted."
The Government says 13% of New Zealand's working age population are on a benefit and 220,000 children live in benefit-dependent homes.
Its welfare reforms are expected to save $1 billion over the next four years, but upfront costs are expected to be $130 million a year in financial incentives and paying private providers to implement the policy.
"I make no apology for wanting New Zealand to be a country of work, enterprise or self-reliance," Prime Minister John Key said as he announced the changes this afternoon.
Young people focus
Asked on TV ONE's Breakfast what the Government's biggest welfare challenge is, Key said it is particularly important to get young people into a job or training course.
"We see a group of young people, some of whom aren't even on a benefit. They're 16 or 17, they've left school, they're not in work, they're not in training and they are on a collision course with a benefit," he said.
Between 8,500 and 13,500 16 and 17 year olds are currently not in education, employment or training.
They will have their benefit payments managed for them, with rent and power bills paid directly, and be given a payment card for living costs, which will not include alcohol and cigarettes.
They will also get financial sweeteners if they complete six months of education, and courses in budgeting and parenting.
If they do all three they can earn an extra $30 a week on their benefits.
"We're going to reward them when they make good decisions," Key said. "Although these payments could be taken away from a young person if they go off the tracks."
The legislation will be debated in Parliament next month and the first set of changes will be in place by October.
Details of changes to the unemployment, sickness and invalid's benefits will be announced at a later date.
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