Saturday, December 19, 2015

Latest OECD data on pension qualification and affordability

Summarised by the US Social Security department:

"The report presents a number of aging-related statistics for the OECD member countries, which include the following:

In 32 of the 34 OECD member countries, the fertility rate is below the replacement level.

Average life expectancy at age 65 in the 2010–2015 period is 21.8 additional years for women and 17.4 additional years for men and is expected to reach 25.8 years and 21.9 years, respectively, in the 2060–2065 period.

The average number of expected years in retirement has increased from 11 for men and 15 for women in 1970 to 18 and 22, respectively, in 2014.

The old-age dependency ratio (the population aged 65 or older divided by the population aged 20–64) is projected to nearly double from the current 28 older persons for every 100 working-age persons to 35 older persons by 2025 and to 55 older persons by 2075.

The share of older workers aged 55–64 has risen from 48 percent in 2004 to 56 percent in 2014.
The average effective age for leaving the labor market is 64.4 for men and 63.1 for women.

To counter these trends and the financial strain they put on public pension systems, the report notes that many countries have raised the statutory retirement age and introduced measures that discourage early retirement. By 2054, according to current legislation, 15 of the 34 OECD member countries will have retirement ages older than 65 (compared with 8 member countries in 2015)."

I wonder if New Zealand will be one by 2054?

Martin van Beynen nails it with a MUST-READ

Some years ago Martin van Beynen took off on a tour of New Zealand to find poverty. He didn't stand in a university lecture theatre or go to some church in a wealthy suburb to preach statistics.

What he did do was produce a series of articles and photographs from the most run-down and often dysfunctional environments. He talked to the people who live in them who it must be said were often rather cheerful and stoic. Or sometimes angry and disaffected. But he took us to the places we know exist yet will probably never see for ourselves.

Today he has delivered again with a brilliant expose of the meaninglessness of child poverty reports.
Absolute must-read. Reproduced in full here so I can be assured of access to it in the future:

OPINION:  If you lived next door to children living in severe poverty, you would probably do something to help out.
You might, for instance, slip the family a few hundred bucks around Christmas, have them over for dinner occasionally or pay the odd household bill for them.
But living cheek by jowl with the poor doesn't happen to middle NZ very much any more.
The gap has widened and the poor congregate in their enclaves and middle NZ goes some place else.
Street life doesn't bring the classes together.
But we hear about poverty quite a bit because, as an advanced society, we have measures and statistics to monitor how we are treating the most vulnerable.
We have reports like the Child Poverty Monitor which was released this week.
It said 305,000 dependent New Zealanders aged 0-17 were living in income poverty. Using another measure, it reported 220,500 of the same age group were living in "severe poverty".
It generated the usual response of Government bashing, capitalist blaming and gnashing of teeth. John Key scandalised Labour's children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern by linking poverty to drug use.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the Government's refusal to end child poverty was putting children's lives at risk.
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And then, as is becoming usual, nothing.
Shouldn't we be shocked and appalled? Why aren't we doing something? What is wrong with us?
The answers are many and various. As a political or even social advocacy tool reports like the Child Poverty Monitor are pretty hopeless.
They cast the net too wide so truly serious poverty is trivialised. They suggest the answers all relate to handing out more money, that easy fix solutions exist. They tell us what we already know. Maori and Polynesian children are over-represented. Really?
They imply children are somehow divorced from their family or community environment.
In addition the numbers don't sound quite right.
Let's take a city in NZ which has a population of say 400,000. About 100,000 will be under 18. Of those, about 29,000, according to the report, are living in "income poverty" and about 21,000 will be in "severe poverty".
That's a lot of kindergartens, primary schools and high schools in a city like Christchurch or Wellington.
And what is income or severe poverty anyway?
Poverty is an emotive term, at least for my generation (I am a youthful 57).
It brings to mind an income on which it is impossible to afford the basic necessities of life. It conjures up images of ragged children, dust bowls, rundown houses, beaten down workers and bleak streets. But being poor is different from living in poverty.
In modern sociological terms poverty has become to mean the inability to participate fully in society or to reach one's full potential.
And don't forget we are not just talking about poverty. It is child poverty.
A child is a small innocent person in my book. When you include 16 and 17 year-olds, you bring young adults into the mix. They are still children, of course, but their childhoods have gone.
We all know why these reports use the word child. A child is blameless and  innocent. This gets around the problem of the undeserving poor. These  child poverty victims have, by a cruel quirk of fate, ended up being born in the wrong families.
Child poverty is more worthy of a sympathetic ear than old people poverty or single parent poverty. It is innocent poverty.
Then we have those fascinating definitions. Income poverty is defined as 60 per cent of the median income after housing costs are taken into account. Severe poverty is 50 per cent of the median income.
Median income is the point at which half the people receive more and half receive less than the stated amount.
The child monitor report does not say what the median NZ income is but a bit of detective work shows the median NZ income is $621 a week.
It's more complicated however. The median income from wages and salaries is $882 a week ($45,864 pa).
Then we have income from "Government transfers" which is income provided by the state for things like benefits, Working for Families, ACC payments and NZ Superannuation.
The median weekly transfer is $315 a week.
Another reason to be a little wary of the Child Monitor report is that it reports a big change in income poverty from 2013 ( 24 per cent of dependent 0-17 year olds) to 2014 (29 per cent).
What could have happened in just 12 months to plunge another 45,000 children and young adults into income poverty?
We need to be reminded about children living in true hardship. But not everything that reminds us is worthwhile.
Reports like the Child Poverty Monitor are not working.
Everyone knows a low income is only one of a host of factors which make people poor and increasing benefits or allowances will make little difference to the poverty which stems from human frailties, failures or vices.
We need robust measures to give us an accurate picture of who needs help but the figures are starting to seem meaningless.
We have come to doubt them. They don't seem to reflect reality. They lump the poor into one amorphous caste. They make no allowance for the black market economy or the ability to harvest free food.
A lot is already being done to help families in hardship and a lot more needs to be done but these reports don't help at all.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Who will sing for the male victims?

From the NZ Herald:
Kiwi singer Tina Cross has teamed up with a police choir for a powerful message against domestic violence.
Joining forces with the Counties Manukau District Commander's Police Choir and teenagers from Otahuhu Blue Light Choir, Cross re-recorded her 2014 song Walk Away as a message of support for women in abusive relationships.

According to TV3 last night

So far this year, 33 people have died from family violence - 16 children, 10 women and 7 men.

And recently from the DomPost:

A  Stuff data investigation has found at least 204 children, aged 0-14, have died as a result of neglect, abuse, or maltreatment in New Zealand since 1992.
 Most commonly, they died at the hands of men. Almost three quarters of the killers were family members.
The killers were almost equally likely to be mothers or fathers, accounting for 31 per cent and 29 per cent of cases respectively, where the victim's relationship with the killer was known. 

So who will sing for the male victims of  domestic abuse?

And who will sing for the children killed by their mothers?

Personally, I view singing for a cause as a wankfest.

But it does continue to highlight a biased and unjust refusal to acknowledge the active and aggressive part women can and do play in family violence.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Genuine about reducing child poverty? Here's an original idea

So the misdiagnosers had their day in the sun as the media went potty with the headline buster, Third of children in poverty - report (DomPost front page).

The  implicit answer is more state-mandated wealth transfer.

That won't work though, because that is the policy that creates poverty; not the policy that reduces it.

So it is something of a relief, on the same day, to read a different idea.

Problem 1: Children who lose contact with their fathers do worse in life.
Problem 2: Single mothers who want to work often struggle with the cost of childcare.
Problem 3: Many non-resident fathers are without meaningful work.
All three of these problems are fairly well established in the research literature. Each also motivates a battery of policy responses, with varying degrees of efficacy. In a recent report on poverty and opportunity from a working group convened by Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute, non-resident fathers received some special attention....So, let’s see…Lots of non-resident fathers are not gainfully employed; single mothers are struggling with childcare cost; and children, especially boys, are suffering from the distance or absence of their father. Here’s an idea: have the fathers look after their children, allowing mothers to get into and stay in work. The savings for the mother would far outweigh child support payments, which could be suspended when the father is providing childcare. What if, rather than squeezing these men for every last nickel, we were to ask them to do childcare instead?

With single mothers increasingly participating in the workforce, this idea has merit - social and economic.

Ironically, it suggests a partial reverse of times gone by, when fathers dominated the workplace and mothers almost always provided the childcare. Like then, two parents should be able to manage their families financial and childcare requirements without welfare - separated or not.

Child poverty - it IS a choice

The Children's Commissioner is leading a social media campaign to battle child poverty.

"Child poverty - it's not choice." That's the message that outgoing Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills wants to spread through social media in a challenge to Government policy.

It's not the choice of the children living in low income households.

But the majority of them end up there through the choices made by their parents.

When one in five children every year is being born directly onto a benefit or into precarious financial circumstances that will see them dependent on a benefit within their first year...

...somewhere along the line choices are made. They are the sole responsibility of the parent. Not you, not me and not the rest of NZ.

Yes, the government, as our representatives, makes choices about how the consequences of those choices are dealt with but the horse has bolted by then.

The Children's Commissioner does his charges no favours by refusing to acknowledge the facts behind child poverty. An illness cannot be cured if it is misdiagnosed and wrongly treated.

But it's an interesting choice of message, "Child poverty - it's not choice".

Clearly the public perception the anti-poverty advocates have identified and want to stamp out is the reverse.

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Zealanders are generous with their time and money

This is charted for the benefit of a discussion thread elsewhere.

69% helped a stranger
62% donated money
44% volunteered time

That was 2014.

Over a five year period NZ ranked 3rd.