Friday, May 08, 2015

Increase benefits to improve responsibility

No, it's not a Tui ad.

A column appeared in this morning's DomPost which is, in parts, staggering in its distortions. For instance:

If we had a more inclusive approach to children, they would have an adequate standard of living no matter the causes of low income.
A first step is improving Working for Families so that these important tax credits are available to children whose parents can't find enough work to meet current criteria.
Of course, such a move requires a shift away from current thinking that categorises a child's poverty as the parent's fault and a shift to policy that gives parents the capacity to exercise their responsibility. With a bit of extra support these families can make the right choices to help their kids flourish.

I have responded with the following.

On the matter of child poverty, Deborah Morris-Travers writes, "let's be clear" but then isn't. She doesn't spell out the key demand of the End Poverty petition. It is to extend the In Work Tax Credit (IWTC) - a creation of the last Labour government - to beneficiary parents. She writes about parents who "can't find enough work" implying that a lack of jobs is driving child poverty.

One in five children born in 2014 was benefit-dependent by the end of the year. Many went directly onto a benefit, some shortly thereafter. That outcome cannot have come as a surprise to the parent. Most went onto Sole Parent Support which does not require parents to work until their child goes to school. This early dependency pattern goes back to at least 1993 regardless of the unemployment rate.

To then write that beneficiaries should receive bigger benefits so they have "the capacity to exercise their responsibility" is truly topsy-turvy.

For years public policy has incentivised irresponsibility about bringing children into the world. This petition asks the government to improve the incentive.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Dramatic change in 65+ employment

The HLFS March quarter was released yesterday. One statistic that caught my eye was the number of 65+ who are continuing to work - 140,000. That's only 33,800 fewer than 60-64 year-olds. So I went back and looked at older HLFS data using Infoshare.

I haven't time now to produce a twin axis graph showing the number and percentage of the relevant age group, but I can tell you that the 65+ population only grew by 61% between 1992 and 2014 whereas the number employed grew by 468 percent.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Increase benefits!

A petition has been launched. It appears to be a collaborative effort from Unicef, CPAG,  the NZ Council of Christian Social Services and a couple of others:
To John Key, Bill English and Anne Tolley,

One in five children in New Zealand live in poverty. This is not only a national crisis, but an entirely avoidable one, and it’s time to take action. Every year we delay is a year hundreds of thousands of our children cannot get back.
Budget 2015 needs to be a budget to end child poverty.
I’m calling on you to treat all children fairly in this Budget and boost the incomes of the poorest families in New Zealand by including children who currently miss out on adequate state support.

At least the demand is plain. Increase benefits.

Would it be fair to "all children" to take more money away from parents who have taken responsibility for their families and give it to parents who have not?

Would it be fair to "all children" to increase the motivation for drop-kick parents to produce babies as meal tickets?

Would it be fair to "all children" to further incentivise fatherless families?

I have an idea.

It's a compromise because I accept that in the short term, a boost in income might help some children.

The government could agree to increase the benefit payment IF the parent accepts income management. That means their rent and power are paid direct. They are issued with a payment card for groceries. The remainder is paid in cash. It wouldn't be much. But the children would be assured of a home, heat, food and a caregiver who isn't mentally wrung-out struggling to cope with burgeoning debt from money mismanagement. The last is often to their greatest detriment.

Parents who accept  will be those genuinely motivated to do the best by their children. They'd quite probably also have no interest in extending the arrangement indefinitely.

If nothing else, it would be an interesting exercise testing a parent's commitment to their children.

I accept it's paternalistic, maybe even draconian. But it would meet what the petitioners want. More income for beneficiary children.

In respect to disadvantaged children, New Zealand dug the hole. We can't just keep digging it deeper.

Monday, May 04, 2015

What to take from the change at Mangere Budgeting Services

According to TVNZ
Ten years ago 85% of clients at Mangere Budgeting Services were beneficiaries - today only 37% are - the rest are working families.

What was happening in 2005?

6,599 beneficiaries were registered at the Mangere Work and Income Service Centre.

At March 2015 there were 6,249. Only 5 percent fewer.

So perhaps the big change at the Budgeting Services reflects a change in their policy? That is, qualifications on who they will assist.

If not, the other conclusion is that beneficiary income is better than income from work.

(Hat-Tip Whale Oil)

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sexism: Boot on the other foot and putting it in

In this climate of cultural cringe whenever the merest hint of sexism against women is sniffed, a double standard is becoming increasingly evident.

Take this headline from The Herald on Sunday

Too few men for smart women

The article denigrates men who have not got a degree.
Among people in the 30-34 age bracket with a university degree or similar qualification, there are 155 women for every 100 men. That would be less of a problem if the women were more willing to "marry down". The overall ratio is 91 men to 100 women in the population aged 25-49. But women are perhaps less inclined than men to marry someone not as well educated, which may add to the shortage of partners for intelligent women....The solution is not, as one dating agency suggests, for women to lower their expectations. They should, of course, keep an open mind when they meet someone but it would be idle to pretend that these things are of no account. The solution, as the researchers suggest, is to raise the numbers of men in higher education.
The expressions "marry down" and "lower their expectations" are offensive to men - should they bother to take it. Which is probably at the crux of the matter.

Men don't take to playing indignant victim as readily as women. Oh bugger. Was I just sexist?

The failure of men to foot it with them [women] educationally in equal numbers is no reason to change the education system or promote men undeservedly. The shortage of partners for highly educated women is a problem only men can solve. Get your credentials, boys.

Consider yourself told. There will be no quotas, no Ministry of Men's Affairs, and certainly no sympathy for your failure. Own it. Just like minority groups and women have always been expected to.