Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's in a name?

The Domestic Purposes Benefit has been named as such since 1968. 43 years ago National instituted the DPB Emergency Benefit. How much life has changed since then. For instance women now make up half of the workforce and tertiary education rolls.

The benefit itself is dated and unsuited to the times, and so is the name. The reason I was thinking along these lines was looking at what various US states call their equivalent DPB. Many simply use the words 'temporary' and 'transitional' and 'work' but here are a few of the more imaginary examples:

Arizona EMPOWER (Employing and Moving People Off Welfare and Encouraging Responsibility)

Montana FAIM (Families Achieving Independence in Montana)

North Dakota TEEM (Training, Employment, Education Management)

Oregon JOBS (Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Program)

Virginia VIEW (Virginia Initiative for Employment, Not Welfare)

Wyoming POWER (Personal Opportunities With Employment Responsibility)

You can view the lot here.

The essential difference is the expectation that the name creates. The federal and state funds that go into these programmes only pay out a small percentage in cash assistance. The rest goes into things like childcare, training etc.

I would judge the success of the US reforms primarily on whether they break the inter-generational cycle of dependence. Changing the parent's expectations will change their children's. Poor and working is better than poor and on welfare. Aspirational is better than apathetic.

While many commentators (somewhat smugly) predict the economic decline of the US I think they have been tackling their social problems with real vigour and discipline. Eventually they will see a pay-off. NZ, frankly, is well behind.

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