Saturday, September 09, 2006

Generous welfare does not prevent crime

This is a comment from a reader on Krimsonlake's blog;

The problem with trying to deal with the problem of people taking advantage of a welfare system is that for every ten people that you motivate to go out and get a job, one will be motivated to go out and commit crime.

If you look at other countries, like Canada and the US, tougher welfare system equals more crime and cases of child neglect, and the economy doesn't really suffer any ill effects of a relaxed welfare system because there are less criminals to take care of.

This is an erroneous but not unusually held belief that somehow welfare provision prevents crime. Canada's crime rate over its provinces is highly variable but, interestingly, lowest in Ontario, which has undergone vigorous welfare reforms, reducing their welfare numbers by more than 50 percent since 1994.

Wikipedia ;Canada's crime rate is close to the average of Western Europe, lower than some nations (United Kingdom, Sweden) but higher than others (Spain, France). Canada has several times more crime per capita than Japan.

UK and Sweden have very generous welfare - France, and particularly Spain, much less so.

And of course one would have to question why crime sky-rocketed in NZ from the sixties in tandem with the explosion of the benefit system. Don't go blaming it purely on unemployment. Look at what's going on right now with the "lowest" unemployment rate in the OECD. I would suggest crime has more to do with family structure, stability and ability to provide.

Japan's welfare state

You don't read much about the Japanese welfare state. But this article describes the problem they are running into with low fertility - 1.32 - and high longevity. They don't want immigration given the islands are already densely populated but they don't want to give up their welfare state which is very much geared to care and provision for the elderly. Something has to give and it looks like they are going to accept "temporary" losers. Workers will have to live with less job security and fewer benefits.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Maharey muck-up?

Just watching an interview with Steve Maharey and Wayne Mapp. Maharey has caused a stink by giving a $200 donation to a fund which was set up to assist the locked out/ striking Progressive Enterprise workers. Mapp says he is taking sides. Maharey says he is helping to feed his constituent's kids. And he really should have given more and he would do it again.

It's Maharey's money. He's given it voluntarily. Seems to me it's a better solution than having his constituents down at the WINZ office looking for handouts. For once I think I might be in sympathy with Mr Maharey.

Hostels for single mums

The Welfare State We're In discusses a recommendation from UK Labour MP David Blunkett (ex Minister for Work and Pensions) that young single mothers should go into hostels instead of being provided a council house or flat.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Criminal families

Just wondering if Nathan Fenton, accused of murdering 17 year-old Mairina Dunn is related to these two.

Caesareans increase risk of newborn death

The Scotsman reports, Newborn babies are more than twice as likely to die when their mothers choose to have a Caesarean section, compared with natural births, according to new research.

Although the reasons remain uncertain, the scientists said the gap between the figures could be that labour helped babies to breathe better and adapt to the outside world.

They said understanding the causes of the differences was important because of the rapid growth in the number of women choosing to have Caesareans.

In 1999 Caesareans made up 20 percent of NZ births. As well as increasing risk to the baby, other hot-off-the-press research has shown Caesareans triple the risk of the mother dying during the birth.

Karaoke crack down

Reason reports, The Chinese government is concerned about people singing risqué songs in karaoke bars. So it is rolling out a program in test cities in which karaoke bars can choose songs from a central database. The approved songs will exclude those with sexual content, political themes and foreign slang.

Umm. What does that leave?
The perfect job for a man who can only count to five? Put him in charge of a newly created billion-dollar Super Ministry.

The Lazy Left

The following is an excerpt from a piece by Jane Kelsey. It's about child poverty and the government's refusal to pay the In Work payment to beneficiary families;

First, as the Child Poverty Action group repeatedly points out, this condemns New Zealand’s already disadvantaged children to begin life of poverty from which they may never recover. Some 230,000 children pay that price simply because their parents are beneficiaries. New Zealand (and Labour) once believed in equality of opportunity. Indeed, Labour’s own 2002 Agenda for Children aims ‘to make life better for children’ and its social policy published in 2004 recognises that ‘poor child health is linked to poor adult health and also to broader poor outcomes including unemployment and crime’. No more.

The differential impact on Maori compounds the structural inequalities of colonisation. Maori and Pasifika families are often the poorest, largest and most benefit-dependent. Ministry for Social Development figures released in April 2006 showed 93,423 Maori children and 137,857 non-Maori children would be excluded from the benefits of the package. This represents 45.9 percent of all Maori children, 29.6 percent of Pasifika children and 12.3 percent of Pakeha children. Such discrimination negates the possibilities for these children to participate, belong and achieve within New Zealand society and constitutes another violation of the Crown’s obligations under te Tiriti o Waitangi. In economic terms, abandoning so many today’s children will deprive the country of the healthy, educated and socially stable adult generation we will need tomorrow.

My comment; The left is fundamentally lazy. Social problems are intrinsically linked to a lack of money. The lack of money is the fault of government policy. If government policy is changed and South Auckland or Ruatoria or Aranui families receive more money the lives of their children will be vastly improved.

Does anybody really believe that (apart from diehard socialists)? We've spent nearly seventy years trying this approach to little avail it would seem.

Kelsey's attitude is patronising (the poor have no responsibility for their own circumstances) dishonest (it is society's fault that brown children are disproportionately poor) and, above all, lazy (forcing government to pay more is all we need to do.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ruatoria etc

Ruatoria. I tried to do some research about Ruatoria a couple of years ago but I couldn't reach a conclusion based on the information I had. The continuation of the DomPost series, "Of poverty and priorities" has the answer I was looking for. Apparently in Ruatoria ninety percent of the households rely on a benefit. So why was I particularly interested in this little East Coast town?

Looking at the 2001 Census Ruatoria has one of the highest ratios of one parent families. There were exactly the same number as two-parent families. Apparently there were 87, yet DPB claimants registered at the Ruatoria WINZ office at 2004 were 216. The population was trending down so the discrepancy is probably explained by a large number of claimants living in the sticks.

Reading this morning's piece it is tempting to just think well, leave them be. Leave them to their alcohol abuse, violence, fighting and criminality just so long as they stay way the hell up in Ruatoria. But here's the thing. The East Coast has the highest fertility rate in New Zealand. We cannot keep on turning a blind eye. Thirty six percent of the people are under 15 compared with 23 for the rest of NZ. And Ruatoria is just one of many similar towns or suburbs which exist only through welfare and are outbreeding the general population. No need to wonder why today's frontpage headline reads, "Child abuse swamps police".

Here's a couple of quotes from another in Martin van Beyen's excellent series;

Ron Hedley, owner of the local sawmill, confirms he has vacancies....The work ethic and pride in independence have been lost, he says. "A culture has been established with the Government keeping everyone afloat with handout money, and why work if you've got someone who is going to support you?"

Joe Parata, who runs the Ruatoria Hotel, echoes Mr Hedley."There's only one way out of it and that is to end welfare. Everyone's too gutless to do anything about it."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Spend, spend, spend!

Having made an oral submission opposing the establishment of the Families Commission, every so often I have a look at their website to see what they are up to. Not a lot. Here is their latest piece of earth-shattering research. Remind me again how much they cost us? $7 million a year. What a waste of money.

"Maori unemployment still a serious problem"

I referred yesterday to an article by Rob Mcleod about Maori unemployment. Here is a link.

Today the general unemployment rate is down to 3.6 percent yet the Maori unemployment rate remains over 8 percent, the same as the general rate in 1994. Worse, the Maori youth unemployment rate is a tragic 18 percent. Yet how rarely do we hear politicians and commentators saying this is unacceptably high?

Benefit rises lead to more single mothers

The Greens and the Maori Party should heed new research which estimates that an increase in yearly benefits of 1,000 euros $NZ 1,976) will increase the incidence of single mother families by about 2 percent.

These two parties are supporting the Child Poverty Action Group's legal challenge to force the government to increase payments to beneficiary families with children. If they succeed we are likely to see more young women becoming single mothers.

The research analysed 14 European countries and found that Britain had by far the highest proportion of single mothers in the European Union. The report says that eight percent of British households were headed by a single mother aged 18-35. Britain also has one of the highest benefit rates. The lowest numbers of single mothers were in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy.

The researcher, Libertad Gonzalez, a Barcelona academic, said, 'The correlation across countries is quite striking. The countries with the highest incidence of single mothers are also the countries with more generous benefit, and vice versa....Spain, Greece and Portugal with small numbers of single mothers also have lower benefit levels. The UK and Ireland are both generous with benefits and have a higher incidence of these families.'

According to the British Sunday Times, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show single-mother families in Britain have steadily risen from 1% of all households with children in 1971 to 11% in 2004.

By contrast New Zealand's 2001 Census showed 24 percent of all families with dependent children were headed by a single mother, with a further five percent headed by a single father. The numbers are projected to rise.

In the past the OECD has criticised New Zealand's single parent benefits as being too generous. This new research, and other research from the US, would suggest that there is a strong correlation between the level of our benefits and the high number of single mothers.

If the proponents of increasing benefit rates are still not convinced, they may care to have a look at the Dominion Post, page A8 today, where even a single mum on welfare says giving more money to beneficiaries is not a good idea. She is quite clear about where the money will end up, "They'll just spend it on more piss".

Monday, September 04, 2006

One in four Maori on benefit

An article in the DomPost business section today, by Rob McLeod, reminds us that when general unemployment was over eight percent there was much hand-wringing. Yet Maori unemployment is still that high despite having dropped considerably.

Which prompted me to check how high their overall benefit dependency rate is.

I am relying here on estimates from 2005 (roll on the Census releases). In the 18-64 age group there are around 347,000 Maori (a slight over-estimation due to relying on five-year age bands balances a slight under-estimation due to being a year old).

At the moment 86,893 18-64 year-old Maori are on a benefit or 25 percent. The Pacific rate is about half that and the non-Maori or Pacific rate around 8 percent.

I suppose we should adopt the glass half full approach and celebrate 3 in 4 Maori not being on a benefit!

Where is he indeed

I once had a run-in with Phillip Field over the Social Services Select Committee table.

He became highly agitated about my wanting to abolish the DPB and launched into a tirade about women and children living on the streets of india. Had I been there? Had I seen it? Is that what I wanted for New Zealand? Despite the barrage of questions I couldn't get a word in edgeways. Eventually the chairwoman Georgina Beyer intervened and told him to let me respond. At which point I simply pointed out that India does not have the lowest unemployment rate in the developed world. Well, that didn't help matters. He then appeared to be speechless.

But the impression left with me was of a man barely under control. I'd met him before at select committee, previously he had been chairman, and he was always very calm and civil. But last year he was a different man.

Anyway, I was reminded about this because I came across the TransTasman ratings for MPs in 2003. About Mr Field, who at 3 out of ten only had one Labour MP rated lower (Ashraf Choudary) they wrote;

Another behind the scenes man. Lovely voice but not much else. Faded after a promising start. Where is he?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A few of you were interested in my letter to Barnardos CE Murray Edridge. Here is the reponse;