Only one in 200 New Zealanders on benefits have failed mandatory drug tests, new figures show.

In New Zealand, jobseekers can be asked to take a drug test and if they test positive for illegal substances, they risk losing their benefits. Prime Minister Bill English claimed in February that businesses were finding it hard to fill jobs with non-immigrants as people from New Zealand were failing pre-employment drug tests.

However, statistics from the Ministry of Social Development have revealed that despite Mr English’s claims, the actual failure level among those on benefits was very low. In the final six months of 2016, more than 18,000 benefit claimants were sent to take drug tests.

But of that number only 80 failed by either providing a positive sample, not turning up to their appointment or refusing to take the test.

And during the six-month period, 54 sanctions were placed on people’s benefits as a result of drug testing.

Over the last three years, the average failure rate has been one in 200. Almost 95,000 people on benefits have been asked to take a drug test with 450 failing it.

Methamphetamine becoming more popular

Meanwhile, pre-employment drug tests have revealed that methamphetamine is becoming increasingly popular among those in white-collar jobs. Methamphetamine – also known as crystal meth – produces an intense rush and a surge in energy but can also cause paranoia and hallucinations.

According to figures from The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA) in New Zealand, 13.4 per cent of positive pre-employment drug tests in 2016 showed evidence of methamphetamine use. This is an increase from the previous year and suggests that methamphetamine abuse is becoming more widespread.

However, cannabis remained the most popular drug among workers, showing up in 81.3 per cent of positive workplace tests in 2016.

Workplace drug testing allows employers to find out whether drug abuse is taking place among their staff. Particularly popular in safety-critical industries, random testing can be carried out as a deterrent with disciplinary action or dismissal for those who test positive.

Some companies may also carry out drug tests as part of investigations into incident or as a result of a complaint or allegation.

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