Saturday, April 24, 2010

Discovering 'poverty' in Japan

Apparently Japan has discovered 15.7 percent of its people are living in poverty and this is a blow to a society that has always considered itself mostly middle-class.

They made this discovery by adoption of international definitions. An example is used of a single mother raising a teenage daughter and working two jobs. She can't afford to send her daughter to vocational school, a special school that teaches animation acting. But most of the people living in poverty have enough to eat, cars and cellphones.

Contrast this to Brasilia, another story of poverty where people live in make-shift tents on rubbish dumps.

This is no doubt how Mrs Sato, the Japanese example, thinks of poverty.“I don’t want to use the word poverty, but I’m definitely poor,” said Ms. Sato, who works mornings making boxed lunches and afternoons delivering newspapers. “Poverty is still a very unfamiliar word in Japan.”

And may it stay unfamiliar. Japan is a country (as much as I know about it) that has strong families and low crime. In part that can be attributed to very limited state welfare.

When the US discovered 'poverty' and began the 'war' against it in the 1960s, all that happened was poverty became more entrenched and widespread.

If this article is anything to go by, and notice how one female academic is already talking about people not being able to participate fully in society (which is exactly what NZ officials said in 1973 before they created the DPB), then Japan may be about to start going down the same misguided pathway to not less poverty, but less prosperity.

If you doubt my warning consider that currently Japan has one in 7 children living in (let's label it accurately) relative poverty. But NZ has one in 5 living in relative poverty and most are in benefit-dependent households. Why would Japan want to copy western models of welfare?

Friday, April 23, 2010

IMF projected economic growth

The IMF have just released their outlook for economic growth in 2010-11. It contains masses of information but these two charts caught my interest given that China has now moved into the position of NZ's 2nd biggest trading partner. The US is also in the pink. I wonder if the colour use was intentional? The numbers represent % economic growth. (NZ ranks 26th in the world on GDP per capita in current prices and US dollars).

GST question

If beneficiaries,superannuitants and WFF recipients are going to get an income boost when gst rises, are they going to get an income cut if GST comes off food?

Around the newspapers

Jim Hopkins does what nobody else can better - leaves you wondering whether to laugh or cry.

Here's a man who survives the dangers of Afghanistan only to come to NZ and become of victim of something far more insidious - false rape accusations. Again it appears the complainants (female scumbags) get name suppression and no consequences. Surely this sort of vicious and malicious behaviour is almost as worrying as the physical danger taxi drivers face yet gets nowhere near the publicity.

In Taranaki a judge asks if the case of a man taking marijuana into court isn't the stupidest case of the day. The man, a mental health patient says he self-medicates to control his violence. Stupidest case or stupidest law?

Staying in Taranaki, and possibly with the theme of stupidest, Phil Goff was asked to complete the 6 word branding task it recently set members and gave it a go. Like most politicians he couldn't keep to the brief. A nearby observer did much better with 'boring and uninteresting' although even that is repetitious.

And the granddaughter from hell let's rip at a judge when she fails to convince him she has turned over a new leaf. Own goal. Definitely stupidest.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

March 2010 benefit statistics - a mixed bag

March 2010 benefit fact sheets are out.

Unemployment benefit 60,211
DPB 109,643
Sickness benefit 55,796
Invalid's benefit 84,877

Over the year to March unemployment benefit is up 62 percent ; DPB up 7 percent; sickness benefit up 9 percent; invalid benefit up 1 percent.

Over the quarter to March while the DPB also rose (+354) the unemployment (-6117), sickness (-3362) and invalid (-161) benefits fell.

Earlier in the month the Minister said;

1,110 sole parents also cancelled their DPB and went into paid work.

But more joined up to the DPB than left.

The quarterly fall in sickness beneficiaries is good but I am not sure what it means. Perhaps the December quarter had featured a temporary surge in short term recipients explaining why 2009 saw the biggest calendar year SB increase ever recorded.

The quarterly fall in the unemployment benefit is also obviously good but I still believe much of it represents a transfer to student allowances. There are still no 2010 statistics available for those.

Authoritarian National

A few days back I made a comment on Mulholland Drive about authoritarianism being in the ascendency with the National government.

This morning DPF blogs;

National has had an authoritarian streak to it recently, where they are whittling down the number of issues MPs traditionally are not whipped on. They even want to remove conscience voting on alcohol. There are MPs in National (and many party members) who support NZ becoming a Republic, and they should have been allowed to say so.

So what happened in Parliament yesterday of any value?

The Republican Bill was stopped from going to select committee. It's not a subject I have strong feelings about one way or the other but many do and it should have been debated.

ACT's bill to reintroduce a minimum youth rate was not allowed to go to select committee. There is conclusive evidence the lack of a youth rate is affecting youth unemployment.

BUT Paul Quinn's bill to further disenfranchise prisoners was given the green light to go up for public discussion. Hallelujah - not. Exactly what is taking the vote away from short term inmates supposed to achieve?

Oh and ACT voted for that too. It's not even as if there is any pattern of quid pro quo emerging whereby the Nats support ACT's bill in return for ACT supporting theirs.

My frustration with National/ACT is not unusual but DPF being very angry with them is. If that is a reliable barometer many New Zealanders must be starting to get a touch tetchy with this government.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More on the Declaration

A couple of quotes from separate media articles about the reasons why Canada won't sign;

Canada feels key parts of the text remain ambiguous and open to competing definitions that could, to give one example, allow native groups to reopen already settled land claims.

In his address to the General Assembly before the vote, Canada's UN ambassador, John McNee, said Canada had "significant concerns" over the declaration's wording on provisions addressing lands and resources, as well as another article calling on states to obtain prior informed consent with indigenous groups before enacting new laws or administrative measures.

And the following backs up Mai Chen's belief that the Declaration is a precursor to a more binding Convention;

Indigenous congress demands teeth for UN Declaration

THE UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, achieved after a 20-year struggle, recognises the right of the world's 370 million indigenous people to autonomy, self-determination and control of their territory and resources for their own benefit.
However, as a mere declaration, it lacks the legally binding nature of UN conventions, which form part of the framework of international law. This is the goal that the leaders of native peoples are now pursuing

And just listening to the radio today, reading the blogs and newspapers etc I think Key has significantly under-estimated NZ's response to his actions and the secrecy surrounding them.

Define "temporary"

Paula Bennett was reportedly in the Hutt explaining how National's reforms would reduce welfare dependency. My reaction:

Nurturing neuroticism

Until the media told me about worried children I wasn't worried about it. Now I am worried about my 11 year-old worrying. And the writer intends to make me worry even more tomorrow and even more the day after that. And apparently stressed parents make 11 year-olds worried. Um. I think I see the solution.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The UN Declaration - Verbosity super-sized

Surely the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People could be distilled into a much smaller document. Multitudinous affirmations, re-affirmations, concerns, considerations, solemn proclamations, considerations, convictions, encouragements, beliefs, recognitions, emphases followed by 46 articles.

Here's a kicker.

Article 39
Indigenous peoples have the right to have access to financial and technical assistance from States and through international cooperation, for the enjoyment of the rights contained in this Declaration.

Translated: Maori have the right to taxpayer's money. Nothing to get enormously excited about in practice I suppose when there is already a sizeable transfer one way or another. But should National have signed up to an explicit individual right to taxpayer money based on an imprecise concept like indigeneity?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Unemployment insurance shouldn't be the priority

Revisiting an announcement from the Welfare Working Group Chair, Paula Rebstock last week, who said;

Ms Rebstock told Radio New Zealand that the employment insurance will be looked at by the Working Group.

"Right now, if you are in a relationship with someone and you become unemployed, the chances are you would not be entitled to a social welfare benefit.

"But if you are involved in an insurance scheme and you have contributed, then you would also be in receipt of an unemployment benefit for a period," Ms Rebstock told Radio New Zealand.

She said the system could be similar to Canada's Employment Insurance scheme.

"It is clearly within the terms of reference of the group," Ms Rebstock said.

When the Welfare Working Group was first announced the Minister was quite clear their job was to look at ways of reducing dependency and breaking the cycle. Most recently, “The Welfare Working Group will examine long term welfare dependence, identifying causes and solutions.”

Over recent years the unemployment benefit has not been a significant contributor to long term welfare dependence. Currently 84 percent have been on it for less than a year (at least in that current continuous spell). The numbers dropped to 22,748 (based on December quarter figures) at one point. Now they are back up to 60,00 due to the recession. Obviously the UB is very sensitive to the labour market. But generally when there is work the Unemployment Benefit numbers fall substantially. Not so for other benefits.

So it was interesting that Rebstock chose looking at unemployment insurance as her initial announcement. I am not against looking at unemployment insurance at all but it shouldn't be a priority. And while Rebstock says, "It is clearly within the terms of reference of the group" other benefits - the DPB and Invalid benefits in particular - are more in need of attention.

I sincerely hope that the 'hard stuff' will not be neglected.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Promising a new and nauseating level of Nanny State

As the Liberal Democrats star seems to be in the ascendancy in the UK general election campaign I thought it would be timely to look at what they are promising with welfare. Britain's system is probably (with the exception of Australia's) closest to that of NZ and naturally the problems are similar. I looked but, hell, not one interesting or original idea could I find.

But something different must be building their following.

I searched on undettered and came across this glitzy teen mag lookalike pamphlet called Real Women. Go look but get your bucket ready first. Some policy examples;

Remove pre-interview sex discrimination with a ‘no name’ policy for job applications to stop employers making conscious (or subconscious) judgments about whether a woman can ‘do the job’.)

Scrap tuition fees for all part-time and full-time degree courses

Help women over 25 going back to study by paying the fees for their first Level 3 qualifications

A Citizen’s Pension for all based on residency and set above the poverty line, helping women who took time out from work to raise children. This would rise in line with earnings or inflation, whichever is higher

Recruit and train thousands more health visitors and midwives. These professionals will advise new mothers and families on parenting skills including, advice on the health of a baby and support for relationships, which can become particularly trained when a new child arrives. We would set these professionals free from meaningless targets so that they could focus on the well-being of families and children

Protect children from body image pressure by preventing the use of altered and enhanced images in advertising aimed at under 16s, through changes to Advertising Standards Authority rules. We would work with industry regulators and professionals to find ways to ensure that children have access to more realistic portrayals of women (and men) in advertising

Help women make informed choices by requiring adverts to clearly indicate the extent to which digital retouching technology has been used to create overly perfected and unrealistic images of women Encourage the British Fashion Council and design schools to ensure students are taught and judged on their ability to cut to a range of sizes and body types

Ensure that late night trains have a well-publicised ‘Secure Carriage’. This carriage would be where a guard would sit

Develop a 'stopping on request' element to night bus services so that women and men can get off the bus in between bus-stops, to minimise the distance they need to walk on their own

There you go ladies. If you don't ever want to think or do for yourself again this is the party for you. And sorry I don't have time now to go looking for their Real Men policy but anyone want a bet as to whether they have one?