Coronavirus: EMA calls for 'new playbook' to 'supercharge the economy' after COVID-19 lockdown

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) is calling for a new playbook from the Government, as it considers what is needed to jumpstart the economy after the worst of COVID-19 is over.

More than halfway into the planned four-week lockdown, businesses are now starting to think about what it might mean if the country drops to level 3 and some companies are allowed to reopen.

EMA chief executive Brett O'Riley says it's critical that as many Kiwis as possible are able to get back in work quickly. 

There are fears that unemployment could skyrocket in the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many businesses unable to weather the storm of going into lockdown for a month. 

The Government has given billions of dollars to try and prop up companies, offering a massive wage subsidy scheme, but there are fears that not all businesses will survive.

The EMA says the Government is going to need to think outside the box if it hopes to create jobs for people quickly. 

"We've been calling for a new playbook," O'Riley told The AM Show on Tuesday. 

"It's obviously critical that we get as many New Zealanders working as possible and that's going to require a different approach by Government around regulation - not just fast-starting projects but getting them completed quicker,' he said.

"That could mean people working 24 hours a day, adding new shifts, getting construction projects working around the clock - really supercharging the economy where possible so we get as many people working."

O'Riley suggested bringing back the 90-day trial period so people could have the opportunity to try work in new industries and roles. 

"Let's get maintenance programmes going, so let's get those roads, those schools - while students aren't back at school - let's get contractors in there and let's get as much activity going in the economy as possible." 

He said there's been "a pretty strong dialogue right through the whole process" between the EMA and the Government discussing everything from the options around the wage subsidy scheme to practical matters such as the new health and safety environment that would need to be in place if the country drops to level 3.

Treasury scenarios released by the Government on Tuesday, show unemployment could reach up to 26 percent if the lockdown goes beyond the initial four weeks.

However, the figures show that if the Government is willing to offer additional financial support unemployment could be kept below 10 percent, and return to 5 percent by next year.

Despite the dire worst-case outlook, O'Riley said there were opportunities for work out there, and it was important to make the most of those that exist.

"Clearly in areas like tourism and hospitality it's been disastrous. But in areas like construction there's demand for more people - we've seen a lot of foreign workers return home," he said.

"We know in manufacturing there's the ability to actually add new shifts and there's actually a shortage of people. So there are areas where Kiwis can get jobs and will be able to get jobs once we get back in operation and a big part of what we'll be doing alongside Government and other agencies, and the unions, are [working on] how we get people into employment opportunities as quickly as possible."

The data released on Tuesday showed that without the Government's support packages unemployment could have hit 13.5 percent during the lockdown.

Treasury said due to the country's underlying strength the economy could bounce back to be $70 billion bigger than 2019 by 2024.