Throughout history, families have faced calamity. From natural events – fire, cyclone, earthquake, flood and drought. Of human cause – invading armies, murder and pillage, destruction of cottage and crop, incapacity or redundancy of the breadwinner, actions of the State. And of biological origin – crop blights, animal disease and human plagues!

OECD and Treasury warn that Post-Covid New Zealand will present an economic crisis for many families. Loss of job and savings and consequently adequate food and shelter, opportunity, self-confidence and family wellbeing.

Unlike Australia, we have frequent economic recessions, being negative growth for two or more quarters. Nine recessions 1948-2012, with the tenth just ahead. However most of the recent ones do not cause significant unemployment (UE). If we select a benchmark of twice the lowest UE (3.6%) as being significant or calamitous, any UE rate above 7% would qualify.  This puts the six-year recession of 1989-1995 as our longest and worst, each year being above 7% and peaking in 1992 at 10.7%.  Another bad one was 1998/2000, with a 7.7% peak. While sufferers of 1972/3, 1976/9, 1982/3, 2000/01 or 2008/9 may reflect that one or more of these was as painful for them, at a national level none of these reached 7%. We are now warned that our UE rate may greatly exceed 10%, i.e. approaching European norms.

NZ Unemployment Rate History


Family or individual response to a disaster can go either way. To victimhood which leads to anger, blaming or numb inertia, incapable of constructively responding and coping. Or to a resilient response of accepting, adapting, coping, planning and taking action. “Studies show that there are several factors which develop and sustain a person’s resilience:

  1. The ability to make realistic plans and being capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them
  2. Confidence in one’s strengths and abilities
  3. Communication and problem-solving skills
  4. The ability to manage strong impulses and feelings”. (More on Resilience ex Wikipedia)

Developing the above abilities and with support of family and mates, many individuals can find resilience – the active determination to “climb out”.  Fortunately today’s New Zealand is a kind, easy and prosperous country, visited by few disasters and offering generous social welfare, so for most people being made jobless will be their first crisis. The folk I fear for are those confronted by their second or third catastrophe, having been hit by earthquake, drought, fire, loss of partner or previous extended unemployment. To be unmotivated and to give up is a very understandable reaction. For them, a caring safety net will be essential.