Saturday, November 07, 2009

US unemployment reaches 10.2 percent

October quarter data shows that US unemployment rose from 9.8 to 10.2 percent. This is apparently a bigger jump than was predicted.

Meantime NZ unemployment climbed from 6 to 6.5 percent for the September quarter.

The OECD average is 8.6 percent. NZ ranks 10th and the US 25th.

The full list;

Norway 3.0
Netherlands 3.5
Korea 3.8
Switzerland 4.1
Austria 4.7
Japan 5.5
Australia 5.7
Denmark 5.9
Mexico 5.9
New Zealand 6.5
Luxembourg 6.6
Czech Republic 6.9
Iceland 7.0
Italy 7.4
Germany 7.7
United Kingdom 7.8
Belgium 7.9
Poland 8.0
Canada 8.4
OECD – Total 8.6
Finland 8.7
Portugal 9.1
Greece 9.2
Sweden 9.4
Hungary 9.6
United States 9.8
France 9.9
Slovak Republic 11.6
Turkey 12.3
Ireland 12.5
Spain 18.9

How to avoid poverty

This advice isn't new to me but I thought I would reproduce it in full. Sometimes the way to go is so blindingly obvious entire governments miss it. From NCPA;


The conventional wisdom says that if we want to increase opportunities for children, we should give their families more income. Of course money is a factor in upward mobility, but it isn't the only one; it may not even be the most important, says the Brookings Institution.

According to Brookings:

* If you want to avoid poverty and join the middle class in the United States, you need to do three things: Complete high school (at a minimum), work full time and marry before you have children.
* If you do all three, your chances of being poor fall from 12 percent to 2 percent, and your chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 to 74 percent.
* Brookings defines middle class as having an income of at least $50,000 a year for a family of three.

Many American families need supplements to their incomes in the form of food stamps, affordable housing and welfare payments. But such aid should not be given unconditionally, says Brookings:

* The public is concerned that unconditional assistance will end up supporting those who are not trying to help themselves.
* New research in economics and psychology has shown that individuals frequently behave in ways that undermine their long-term welfare and can benefit from a government nudge in the right direction.

Policies with strings attached have had considerable success, says Brookings. One example is the 1996 welfare reform law, which required most adult recipients to get jobs, and dramatically increased employment and lowered overall child poverty. In the midst of a recession, we can't expect everyone to work. But social policies will be more successful if they encourage people to do things that bring longer-term success.

Source: Isabel V. Sawhill and Ron Haskins, "Five Myths About Our Land of Opportunity," Brookings Institute, November 1, 2009.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Reacting to Hone: Grin and bear it

Have just been listening to Willie and JT talking about Hone's latest outburst. Willie maintains his remarks do not pertain to people today but the colonists. JT disagrees. I'm with JT.

Hone says that white men (he used another word) have been "...raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries." It is very hard to believe he isn't talking about a miscarriage of justice that is ongoing.

It doesn't surprise me coming from Hone. But what really bothers me is that lots of people - myself included - who make comment about Maori problems get labelled racists and have nasty prejudices attributed to us that don't exist. Hone comes out with this mouthful and ... well... who knows what will happen. But I am certain that all hell won't break loose in the manner it would if a Pakeha politician expressed similar sentiments about Maori. White guilt requires that we collectively grin and bear it.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

US Poverty Rates

The Green blog has taken issue with a claim I made in an op-ed published recently in the NZ Herald. The claim;

When the United States declared war on poverty and expanded welfare in the 1960s, poverty won. When it reformed welfare in the 1990s, welfare rolls dropped dramatically and so did poverty levels.

The following chart is from the US Bureau of the Census

Then Frog says; "...And they started to decline in 1993 – three years before the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Mitchell is wrong again."

US welfare reform began before 1996. That was when federal reforms were legislated. State reforms began in 1989.

And to claim the trifecta of inaccuracy, under the welfare reforms Mitchell lauds poverty levels rose between 2000 and 2004.

Yes poverty levels have climbed but family poverty, especially that of single female led families, is still considerably lower than in the early nineties.

I am a "bullshit troll" apparently

This happens from time to time. Someone has a crack me for not just a view expressed but for living in Eastbourne. I guess Metiria Turei is taking over from Sue Bradford, except, Sue never got personal I must say.

Worse than this however is a comment on the Standard;

Lindsey is incorrect, and so are you. Why do I know this? Because I’ve never seen her do a straight set of stats to date, it is always biased to what result she wants. I don’t think that she will have changed her long term trend just now. For that matter I’ve yet to see her link to the sources of her stats – the sure sign of a bullshit troll.

I know that over the years I have made mistakes but always put my hand up and I certainly don't hide the sources of my statistics. The poster says he will provide me with examples when he gets time.

I hope so because far more people read The Standard than read this blog. If there is substance to the claim, put it up.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Multitude of media contacts

The Welfare State We Are In reports on the mass of media contacts employed by national government in the UK.

There are about 197 full page listings in the booklet and, at a rough estimate, about 20 press officers per page (some room is needed to fit in their grand titles with words like 'head', ''chief', 'strategy' and 'senior' liberally sprinkled around). So that is about 3,940 press officers - and this is exclusively for national government. I wonder how many journalists are left in Fleet Street to ask them anything? It may be a staff-to-customers ratio that the Ritz would envy.

Our Ministry for Social Development has 17 media contacts listed. If a simple x 15 calculation (based on population) was applied that would produce 255. I can't make a direct comparison to the UK equivalent but their Health Department has 145 press officers so perhaps we are similarly blessed.

Blog stats October

Unemployment rises but not for all

The official unemployment rate is released tomorrow. If the Quarterly Employment Survey, released yesterday, is anything to go by then the figure will go up.

But females are faring better than males. I pay attention to this because if more female jobs, particularly part-time jobs, are being created or becoming available, the prospects for getting people off the DPB is better. It also supports the claim that climbing DPB numbers are more a reflection of young women having children than the recession.

Based on quarterly change the only group to drop since June is full-time male employees. Unfortunately it was a big drop compared to previous quarters. Between the same quarters last year the drop was 1.3 percent - in 2009, 2.3 percent.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"Social Welfare Shake-up"

Here's my interview with Paul Henry yesterday. One could always do better:-) I never watch these things but I always review mentally, thinking about what I omitted.

Monday, November 02, 2009

SubStandard comment

I tend to avoid The Standard because they produce substandard comment based on misinformation. Having a crack at English's aims to tighten up on the sickness and invalid benefits they say;

"There isn’t a ‘blow-out’ in the numbers on the Invalids’ either, it’s increasing just a touch above population growth due to the fact the population is aging (most people on the Invalids’ benefit are older – 72% over 40, 35% over 55)."

1999 40+ population = 1,544,000
2008 40+ population = 1,904,000

23.3 % increase

1999 Invalid's benefit = 51,284
2008 Invalid's benefit = 82,879

61.6% increase

Hardly "just a touch".

Benefit changes don't go far enough

Media Release

Monday, November 2, 2009

The government's plans to tighten up on benefit eligibility do not go far enough, according to welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell.

"Work-testing parents on the DPB when their youngest child turns 6 will encourage those who want to avoid work to simply expand their families. Currently around 5,000 babies are added to an existing benefit each year. One solution to this might be making additional children ineligible for family tax credits although this will increase hardship."

"What the government needs to be doing is sending a very clear message that, in future, welfare for parents with dependent children can only be provided for a limited time. The shorter that time, the greater the likelihood prospective recipients will be deterred and the tendency to lose touch with the workplace will be reduced."

"Any proposed work-testing on the sickness and invalid benefits could be equally ineffective because it requires a GP to assess the beneficiaries ability to work 15 hours. A recent Auditor General's report highlighted the poor standard of communication between GPs and Work and Income; the lack of information GPs were supplying on certifying certificates and their difficulties in trying to talk directly to case managers. Australia implemented this policy in 2006 but the numbers on their disability pension have continued to rise. "

"The fastest growth area for sickness and invalid benefits is psychological and psychiatric problems. These include drug and alcohol abuse. Stricter measures that the government could consider are 1/ appointing agents for those beneficiaries who have drug and alcohol abuse problems and 2/ requiring those beneficiaries to participate in rehabilitation programmes."

"In the past Work and Income (then the Social Welfare department) imposed tougher eligibility conditions based an whether an applicant was considered to have caused their incapacity to work. As with ACC, it now seems that there is little choice but to tighten up on eligibility. That will require a very strong, mutually supportive working relationship between Work and Income and GPs. The risk of intimidation needs to be acknowledged and actively resisted. If receipt of one of these benefits was widely seen to be much harder to qualify for, some people might think twice about indulging habits that seriously impair their physical and mental health."

"National could also consider 'grand parenting' as Australia has done with their Parenting Payment. That involves changing the rules for new beneficiaries but applying existing rules or less stringent rule changes to those already in the system ."

"Above all what National has to do is change expectations about what any of these benefits - DPB, Invalid or Sickness - is for. They are for emergencies, not lifestyles. Their voters elected them on a promise to tighten welfare and they need to do it in an effective, sustainable way."

Benefit numbers at September 2009:

DPB 107,658
Sickness 56,384
Invalid's 85,015

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Talking about talking about welfare reforms

After (but not because of:-)) my agitating over National delivering none of their welfare policy promises to date, Bill English told Guyon Espiner yesterday that they would be going ahead with election proposals. When? Well, when the details are finalised...

I am on Breakfast telly tomorrow to discuss this.