Sunday, February 02, 2014

Matt McCarten's claims in HOS

In today's Herald on Sunday Matt McCarten refers to

"...130,000 unemployed Kiwis who now get no assistance."


At the end of September 2013 there were 150,000 officially unemployed

At the end of September 2013 there were 126,470 people receiving Jobseeker Support

McCarten is quoting Mike Treen, Unite union director leader, who produced the graph below to make a claim that the unemployed are being denied benefits.

The purple line represents the number unemployed; the green line the number of people on the unemployment benefit.

But what does it look like if I add the line representing people receiving a sickness or invalid benefit?

There it is. The blueish line. (Apologies for the crude scan and manually added line but I don't want to spend any more time trying to make this point than I have to.)

The sickness and invalid benefits have increasingly become de facto unemployment benefits. The OECD refers to this phenomena as "medicalisation" of labour market problems. Being long-term unemployed can and does make people ill. It's a problem all developed countries are grappling with.

Treen however claims:

 There was also no significant increase in other working age benefits like sickness, invalid or sole parent benefits to account for the missing number of those receiving the unemployment benefit.

I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why he would say that.

Getting back to the last three years, National's welfare reforms increasingly applied work-testing to the DPB and Sickness benefits starting with Future Focus which kicked in in September 2010. That means people who hadn't previously described themselves as unemployed for the purposes of the Household Labour Force Survey (the source of unemployment statistics) began to. This artificially boosts the number unemployed but is also beginning the very necessary correction to a true relationship between unemployment and welfare dependency.

Matt McCarten is dog-whistling. Most unemployed people - at least 85% - are still receiving state assistance. There are valid (though possibly unfair) reasons why some are not which I cover here. 

Finally, note the irony of McCarten objecting to "Labour's dishonourable record" in this matter.

On another day you can fully expect to find him applauding Labour's wonderful achievement of record low unemployment.

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