Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Mauri Tu: The Tomoana Resource Centrean Intervention Following Job Loss

Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Mauri Tu: The Tomoana Resource Centrean Intervention Following Job Loss

Article excerpt

Abstract

Job loss has been an all too frequent part of the New Zealand economic landscape in the past two decades. Job loss is also associated with risks to the well-being of individuals, families and communities. Central to this relationship is that employment represents more than income. It represents a shared community outside of the family and access to a degree of control over one's life.

The experience of the Tomoana Resource Centre promotes the need for a facility that assists former workers to adjust to job loss by respecting their contribution to community, supporting them to maintain control over their lives and valuing their humanity.

INTRODUCTION(1)

Job loss has been a particular feature of the employment landscape in New Zealand since the mid-1980s. In the prevailing economic climate it is tempting to see employment primarily as a pathway to income. However, we find this approach is too simplistic. Literature, both local and international (Dooley et al. 1996, Mather and Schofield 1998, Morris and Cook 1991), describes the importance of employment as a source of social support, self-esteem, identity and community, above and beyond its role as a source of income.

In New Zealand, the economic policies of the past 15 years have resulted in significant job loss, sometimes manifested as large-scale group redundancies. There is mounting evidence of downstream effects of job loss in both health and social cohesion (Shortt 1996). Whether or not one accepts the economic policy directions of the past decade (and many, including the authors, would dispute their wisdom), the possibility of continued significant job loss still exists. An urgent policy task is, therefore, to seek strategies that minimise the harm associated with job loss.

This study describes an intervention developed by a community in crisis following a large factory closure. It notes the history, the environment, the collaboration between key participants, the support of various agencies, and the needs of redundant workers, their families and community. It focuses on the humanity of those made redundant, their interconnectedness, their sense of family and their demand to be treated with respect.

While their journey and challenges show patterns similar to those described elsewhere in the literature (Morris and Cook 1991), they highlight local realities and should inform policy regarding the needs of New Zealand communities, families and workers.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

There is a long-acknowledged association between poverty and ill-health which continues to be described today (National Health Committee 1998). Within poverty, several parameters have been studied, including income (Mowbray and Dayal 1994, Te Puni Kokiri 1998), education (Wadsworth 1997, Benzeval et al. 1995), housing (Jamieson 1998, Public Health Association 1992) and employment (Department of Statistics 1991, Statistics New Zealand 1993, Ferrie et al. 1998), together with their relationship to ill-health (Ministry of Health 1996).

Researchers have asked whether unemployment creates a risk to mental and physical health. While reviews of the literature often note the debate on causality (Barnett et al. 1995, Jin et al. 1995, Mather and Schofield 1998, Shortt 1996), the evolving consensus acknowledges the need to manage the associated risks. One such review noted:

   Policy planners must face the reality of the relationship between
   unemployment and ill-health and develop a response to it. (Shortt 1996:581)

Recent reviews have drawn attention to the diversity of people who are termed "unemployed" and note the difficulty official statistics have in capturing this diversity (Ezzy 1993). Examples include differences between those who have never been employed and those previously employed, differences between men and women facing unemployment, differences between situations of low unemployment and high unemployment, and differences between voluntary and involuntary job loss. …

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