Simon Bridges has blamed a rise in the number of Kiwis receiving Jobseeker Support on the Government's easing of sanctions.
"It's an outrage," the National Party leader told The AM Show on Monday. "I warned this would happen - it has."
Last year the Government told Work and Income case managers to ease up on penalties and sanctions against its clients. In December 8500 sanctions were applied, down from 14,500 the year before, RNZ reported.
"Under us, the biggest one was not turning up to a job interview - you had to do something like that four times before we started docking your benefits," said Mr Bridges. "That's fair. None of that's happening now."
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Mr Bridges said under National, sanctions would be enforced.
"You look at our time, the last few years, the unemployment numbers went down and down and down... We saw something like 70,000 fewer people on the unemployment or the Jobseeker's benefit. Last year, in good times, it's gone up 11,000."
Unemployment did drop from a high of 6.7 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent under National, but that obscures a rapid rise in unemployment in the early years of John Key's Government, as the global financial crisis tore through the New Zealand economy. Unemployment hit a record low 3.3 percent in June 2008, before that year's general election.
Since the Labour-New Zealand First coalition formed in mid-2017, the official unemployment rate has dropped further to below 4 percent.
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The unemployment rate and Jobseeker Support numbers can appear to be heading in different directions because they're measured differently, and at different times. The Jobseeker Support figure is from the end of December, and is a snapshot in time, while the unemployment rate is measured quarterly and was last updated in November.
"This timing difference is particularly important when there are substantial seasonal rises in unemployment, for example towards the end of December," according to Statistics NZ.
Ministry of Social Development statistics show a rise in the number of people receiving Jobseeker Support every December, but the rise this most recent December was slightly higher than usual. But it's fewer than 4000 people more than were receiving the benefit in December 2013, despite record population increases.
Mr Bridges said beneficiaries who fail to meet their obligations wouldn't automatically lose their entitlements, particularly if there are children affected.