Minister for Employment Louise Upston says 'tough choices' being made amid public servant job losses

Job losses in the public sector are "unfortunate" but the Government has to ensure agencies are exercising restraint, Minister of Employment Louise Upston says.

The axe is falling on hundreds of jobs in the public sector with the latest losses looming at Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Building, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Ethnic Communities and the Ministry of Health.

Ministries have been ordered to find between 6.5 and 7.5 percent in savings.

The latest job cuts are part of a wave of redundancies across both the public and private sectors that is causing a flood in the job market and prompting concern over a brain drain.

Upston told Checkpoint that she felt for anyone facing the prospect of losing their job.

"Unfortunately that is the recession we have inherited and we need to ensure that as a priority we are able to rebuild the economy so that businesses have confidence to take people on again."

Asked about a potential brain drain of New Zealand talent overseas, she said some people would have to make "tough choices".

"We're hoping that we're able to get on top of some of the challenges we're facing ... so that we don't lose too many people overseas."

Upston pointed to migration figures last year that showed a record 44,500 New Zealanders left the country, nearly half of whom headed to Australia.

"We're hoping to ensure that people will see New Zealand is getting back on track and they do have a great future here.

"No one's happy with a recession. Unfortunately, it does mean organisations and businesses do have to tighten their belt and that has an impact on some people, who may lose their opportunities to work."

In February, as Minister for Social Development, Upston announced the Government would begin "work check-ins" for Jobseekers who have been on a benefit for at least six months, particularly young people.

She told Checkpoint on Wednesday this was about "making sure the welfare system is far more active in terms of supporting people into employment, and we want to see that more people have those opportunities here".

Upston denied letting the job losses happen when pressed by Checkpoint host Susana Leiataua.

"We knew we were facing economic challenges, we have an inherited recession, and we're taking active steps to reduce the pressures on households. One of those is making sure Government agencies are exercising restraint.

"Unfortunately, we saw the previous Government take on 15,000 extra public servants. We need to make sure that the taxpayers investment is maximising value and it means it's tough for individuals but we will not get the cost of living down unless we exercise greater constraint in Government spending.

"And it is a very tough balancing act. It's a challenge we're not shying away from it and we know the immediate few months will be tough."

Upston was unable to put a figure on the total number of Government jobs set to be axed.