Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Minister for Child Poverty Reduction may very well succeed

The PM has made herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction. Symbolically a good move for her. But crucial questions have to be answered.

How will she measure child poverty? I suspect there will be an emphasis on incomes. This mirrors what the UK Labour government did in 2000 when they legislated to reduce child poverty.

But this approach was highly controversial and eventually abandoned:

After the 2010 General Election, a Coalition government, made up of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, was elected in the UK. The Coalition remained committed to the Child Poverty Act, but there was a difference in approach. As part of a larger shift away from policy measures to increase income in favor of a focus on efforts to combat what the government identified as the “drivers of poverty” (family breakdown, low levels of education, worklessness, alcohol and drug dependency, personal debt, welfare dependency, and more), the Conservative-led government began to adapt the measurements of the target itself.

This is not dissimilar to the track Bill English was on, though he also concerned himself with lifting incomes via wealth distribution. Contrary to the picture of indifference that Labour painted, National was tackling poverty and, most importantly, its causes. There was a Ministerial Committee on Poverty which produced some strong work on who was poor and why.

In 2016 a follow-up report on progress was published. Here we see emphasis on a strong economy and welfare reform, particularly regarding teen parents, a "special area of focus".

Indications from the new far left government  (compared to the Clark/Cullen administration) to date are that welfare reforms will largely be abandoned and the economy is likely to weaken due to immigration cuts, new and higher taxes, and greater government intervention in the labour market.

On that basis the PM may very well succeed in reducing relative child poverty. After all, if median household incomes go down, a smaller percentage of families will be in relative poverty as highlighted by the UK experience. While,
"....relative low income declined during the recession, absolute low income increased."