Monday, April 15, 2013

Some context and comment about falling benefit numbers

There's been quite a bit of media coverage about benefit numbers coming down. Of course, any genuine decline is good news. But some context is always useful. Here are the headline numbers for the past five years. The official statistics don't yet include March 2013 which the Minister released at the weekend as 310,146.

First, there is nearly always a drop from December to March for seasonal reasons. The fall from December 2012 (339,095) to March 2013 (310,145) is 8 percent - the same as the drop over the equivalent period 2012/11.

Fortuitously, the chart starts at December 2007. That just happened to be the month when NZ had record low unemployment of 3.3 percent. Is that as good as it gets? Still a quarter of a million people on benefits?

What worries me is that level of dependency has become an accepted feature of the economy. It's like having been in a lot of debt for a long time and feeling like you've achieved something when you wipe just a small amount out. That's how the government is behaving.

It's understandable. They need to make political mileage from the improvement however slight.

But they've finished with their reforms. The Minister says that all she is going to do now is tidy up the Social Security Act legislation which has become incredibly complex and voluminous.

So, no time limits. No decentralisation. No tax-payer opt-out. No attempt to privatise disability or unemployment insurance. Nothing radical.

All we can do now is wait and see what happens to the numbers as Work and Income adopt a more work-focussed approach with some extra legislation to assist them.

De javu. That's what we did when Maharey took charge and changed the DPB, Invalid's and sickness beneficiary approach. Waited and waited....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course when you add in increasing numbers on Super, Student Loans, WFF, and the accom "supplement" actual beneficiary numbers just keep going up"