Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Parents on benefits continue having babies

Media Release: Parents on benefits continue having babies

March 3, 2020

Lindsay Mitchell, Welfare Commentator and researcher

In 2019 over 6,000 babies were added to an existing benefit.

"Information released to me under the OIA shows that 6,190 caregivers had added one or more 'subsequent children' aged less than 12 months to their benefit during 2019. That represents one in ten of all babies born last year.  For Maori the ratio doubles to one in five."

Having more babies when unable to independently provide for existing children entrenches long-term dependency. Children on a benefit from birth are more likely to experience abuse and neglect, material hardship, poorer health and educational outcomes, and contact with the justice system.

"To disincentivise adding children, in 2012 the National government introduced a policy whereby the requirement to return to part-time work when the youngest child turned five (later reduced to three) could not be delayed by having another baby. "

In the prior years 2006-2010 the annual average number of subsequent children born to parents on benefit was 4,800.* The situation appears to have worsened since.

"From July 2018 parents on benefits were paid an additional $60 weekly for new born children. 'Best Start' payments apply whether or not the baby is a 'subsequent child.' "

National disincentives and Labour incentives present a mixed and ultimately unsuccessful message as New Zealand fails to deal with the root of so many social problems.



Anonymous said...

As you point out better than anyone we have a welfare system which provides strong financial incentives for beneficiaries to keep producing children. If someone doesn’t want to work or has few work skills or can’t work the only way they can increase their income is to have more children or turn to crime or both. And as you point out, children born into beneficiary households are much more likely than others to be in poverty, be subject to child abuse, do poorly at school and end up in the justice system and on welfare. Fixing this is very difficult because if welfare payments tied to the number of children are reduced (to reduce the incentive to have more children), it’s the children who are most likely to be further disadvantaged.

We therefore need to be bold in our approach and introduce a new, voluntary (opt-in) and generous benefit for women on benefits (up to age 45) to go onto long-term, but reversible, contraception, such as IUDs. The new benefit would be designed to neutralise the current financial incentives to keep having kids and give women more power over their lives. Crucially, the new benefit would be voluntary and reversible, and if a woman decided to have kids the normal benefit payments would obviously still apply. Design details would need to be worked through (such as certification) but they are unlikely to be unduly difficult.

At present we have quite strong financial disincentives for working families, especially higher income families, to have children (children and child care arrangements are very expensive for working mothers) while at the same time we have strong financial incentives for beneficiaries to have more children. That’s a real demographic problem, and an obvious reason why our deprivation statistics (from housing to child poverty to incarceration) keep getting worse. We need to do some creative thinking to improve incentive structures.

Brendan McNeill said...


This statistic should be broadcast from every news agency in the country. It is a classic example of how perverse incentives are being baked into our welfare system creating a permanent underclass. No good can come from this.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Anon, We should just stop giving cash. Provide for the children in-kind. (But I am not unsympathetic to your 'voluntary' suggestion.)
Brendan, MSM not interested. I used to get some interviews but now the daily 'agenda' is prescribed and very tight.
Or I may be just a bad workman blaming the tools.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Lindsay

It's just incredible to me that our media is so far to the left, that this kind of analysis is glossed over, or simply rejected because it doesn't fit the narrartive. What about Sean Plunket on Magic Talk?

The National Party wouldn't risk the publicity, but ACT might?

This is not benifciary bashing, this is consigning thousands of children to a life of state funded poverty, underachievement, adictions and in too many cases - abuse. It is literally the compassion that kills.

What about Kiwiblog.co.nz would they run the story? It's a popular site and these are simply facts you are reporting.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Sent to all those (though the generic Magic address wouldn't reach individual hosts).