Zanian Steele is the current Business Manager for the Young Workers Resource Centre. With a background in teaching employment relations and having worked in Human Resources, Zanian has interviewed hundreds of prospective employees for both office, and trades based work. He has a broad knowledge of the local Labour Market, and has experience placing long term unemployed and former criminal offenders into employment. 


The brutality of various political regimes throughout history is well known. Stalin, Mao, Hussein and other names have become synonymous with crimes against humanity. I have always felt lucky to live in New Zealand; a developed first world country, free from any of the horrific outcomes seen by the previously mentioned regimes

Though we have our fair share of problems in NZ, I have always taken pride that our systems of government were not responsible for any kind of atrocity.

Each year, 45,000 people commit suicide due to unemployment and job insecurity. That’s 450,000 people per year! That is more than the death toll of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan together. While technically speaking, neoliberalism has killed ‘less’ people than communism (or various other regimes) this fact is hardly something to be proud of, much in the same way it is true that the Nazi’s caused fewer deaths than the USSR.

The sheer scale of human casualties necessitate the need to move this debate beyond the political left/right dichotomy. While working class factory jobs have been off-shored or automated, service sector work is generally part time or casual. As the technical definition of unemployment is narrow, the NZCTU estimates that of those seeking work, only a third are counted as ‘unemployed’. The rest underutilized, overqualified, underemployed or keen to unemployed but not as actively searching for work.

Underemployment, where workers are unable to get the hours they need exists at a rate higher than unemployment and disproportionately effects women, while the closure of mills and factories have disproportionately effected men. Increasing immigration has driven down wages and forced competition, resulting in unemployment increases for the locals in race based discrimination for recent migrants. Overeducation too is a problem. Youth are crammed like sardines into tertiary education and are left with negligibly better employment prospects, in some regions graduate unemployment has increased 264% in less than six years. As you can see, there are no winners.

Suggesting that an individual should get help, or that help is available for them, is indicating that they, the individual a responsible for their situation, it in a sense attributes blame to the individual and not the system. Helping ply the unemployed with anti-depressants is not a solution to ending unemployment related suicide. People need stable careers where they can develop an occupational identity, form strong social networks, be productive and provide for their family. There is no ‘medical’ substitute for decent work.

The simple point here is that thousands of people around the world are taking their lives as a result of an economic system that suggests that efficient business is done by creating more flexibility and cost cutting. We need to wake up and realize that our economic system is a more efficient killer than Stalin’s purges. While a totalitarian state might kill might people, our current economic structure induces them to kill themselves.

This year more than 45,000 people will take their lives as a result of unemployment or precarious employment. These people don’t need a handout, they don’t need to be plied with anti-depressants. They need decent employment.

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