Saturday, September 12, 2020

Labour's welfare plan: Recycled policy which flies in face of evidence

 According to RNZ today:

Under Labour's welfare plan, the training incentive allowance for higher skilled courses would be reinstated, and people on a benefit and working part-time would be able to earn more.

The training incentive allowance (TIA) was scrapped because of Treasury advice to the first Welfare Working Group (Rebstock 2009):

Fifty-one percent of DPB recipients participating in an intervention took the Training Incentive Allowance, which MSD found to have no effect on the time a beneficiary was likely to spend off benefit – in fact the study found there was a chance TIA slightly increased the average time spent on benefit. MSD did note there was a chance that TIA may have an unobserved long-term impact (after seven years) on time spent off benefit.

The TIA allowed people people to extend their study and spend more time dependent. Given National's goal was to reduce dependency it was decided to spend the money elsewhere. From memory in more basic skills training aimed at getting more people, particularly poorly educated mothers, into the workforce.

Labour would also increase abatement thresholds so people could earn more in part-time work - up to $160 a week, before their benefit is reduced, about eight hours on the minimum wage. At the moment benefits start reducing for any earnings over $90 a week for someone on Jobseeker support.

The thresholds would also increase for Sole Parent Support the Supported Living Payment.

"This will enable people to keep more of what they earn and increase the financial incentive to stay in or take up part-time work."

It actually encourages people to cap their work hours and spend the rest of the time on welfare. Instead of people becoming independent of welfare they take advantage of a mix.

Labour is truly devoid of new ideas in the welfare area and has spent three years simply undoing measures that National had implemented for good reasons in the previous nine. 

But it's even worse. They have undone policies championed by the last Labour government, such is the influence of the Green party.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Working age benefit receipt nudges up to 12.1%

Working age benefit receipt has nudged up to 12.1%. At the height of the GFC it reached 12.4%

In the week to September 4 a further 1,702 people went on a jobseeker benefit.

However 6,203 came off the Covid Income Relief payment (that's the difference between grants and cancels weekly.)

It seems odd that the two numbers aren't closer until you read that,

There were 7,538 cancels off CIRP for the reason ‘End of Entitlement’ during the week ending 4 September 2020. A CIRP client may not have received their full entitlement at the time of the cancellation, and will receive the remainder of the entitlement over subsequent pay-dates.

So there seems to be some lag in the system meaning cancellations won't immediately lead to a transfer to a Jobseeker benefit. And some people who have been recieving the CIRP won't qualify for the Jobseeker benefit either.

It's all a bit of a mess.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Labour is no friend to low income Maori and beneficiaries

 I've spoken out against benefit dependence for a couple of decades. It's not personal. I have no bone to pick with individuals. My opposition has always been to the 'system' which draws people in and traps them, and the cockeyed incentives that reward lack of life-ownership. My idea of getting people off welfare was never to misery them into it. Letting them taste the experience of work and mates and good earning prospects is the best road to long term independence. Not forgetting that some people - a minority - have little choice but to stay on welfare due to accident and illness.

Here are two charts from Stats NZ showing how much of their income Maori and beneficiaries are forking out for rent and cigarettes compared to others. At the March 2020 quarter:

The Labour government kept up the tobacco tax hikes through to 2020 and significantly increased landlord costs driving up rents.

They are no friend of those they pretend to be.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Children's Commissioner thinks more children on benefits is OK


Since becoming Children's Commissioner, Andrew Becroft's strong left leanings have become increasingly apparent. In this interview he gets right into blaming Rogernomics and neoliberalism for child poverty. 

But this is the soundbite I heard:

Becroft says the present Government has done more than any previous regimes to help kids out of poverty. 

"We were well-placed to deliver this year, but I guess COVID wrecked all that. I just hope we don't drop the ball next year." 

He cited the Families Package and linking benefits to the average wage as achievements by the current government.

If NZ was "well-placed to deliver"  earlier this year then the Commissioner must be comfortable with 12,000 more children being on benefits.

At 31 December 2019 there were 206,395 children aged 0-18 reliant on caregiver on a main benefit (185,930), Young Parent Payment (1,531) or Orphan/ Unsupported Child benefit (18,934). That's 6 percent higher than at December 31, 2017.

Of the 59,637 births during 2019 10,882 babies were welfare-dependent by year end. Nearly one in five. Over half - 57% - were added to an existing benefit.

New Zealand's child poverty problem cannot be solved when high numbers of children live in non-working homes. Raising benefits and reducing the income margin between work and welfare will only incentivise more people to opt for welfare. This normalises benefit dependency for their children and the habit becomes inter-generational.

In 2008 Finance Minister Michael Cullen said, " is desirable to create a margin between being dependent on a benefit and being in employment....

The Labour Party isn’t the party that says living on a benefit is a preferred lifestyle. Its position has always been that the benefit system is a safety net for those who are unavoidably unable to participate in employment. From its history, the Labour Party has always been about people in employment."

The more the current Labour government ignores this, the more intractable the child poverty problem will become.

Same goes for the Children's Commissioner.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

What we don't know is probably more relevant to policy

 A just-released MSD paper examines the family structure of Maori children.

Two data sources were used, Census and Growing Up in NZ. 

First the Census data:

You will notice that these numbers cannot represent all children. They are too low. The paper explains:

We selected children who were able to be linked across all three censuses by Stats NZ. Overall, 59 percent of the child population aged 0–4 years in 2001 and captured in the linked census files was linked to data in the two subsequent censuses (2006 and 2013). Among tamariki Māori, this drops to 53 percent. Some of the ‘missed’ links can be attributed to demographic factors, such as emigration and mortality, but a larger proportion of these false negatives are likely due to incomplete or inconsistent identifying information on children, which means they are not able to be linked. 

The paper states:

"... the share of tamariki Māori ever living in a family with two-parents only (67.5 percent) was significantly lower than among all Aotearoa NZ children (80.2 percent)."

I am wondering why a comparison wasn't drawn between Maori and non-Maori? So I made another table subtracting the Tamariki Maori data from the All Children data.

Now the gap between Tamariki Māori ever living in a family with two-parents only (67.5 percent) and non-Maori NZ children (84 percent) widens.

Another finding (mine) 50.1% of Maori children aged 0-4 in 2001 were in a non- two parent family. This compares to 30.6% for non-Maori.

But this is still tenuous stuff due to all the missing data.

And it gets worse with the GUiNZ data.

It's probably enough to quote from the paper:

These [GUiNZ] longitudinal data allowed for the examination of family structure over multiple time points across early childhood. In this report, we examine family structure data available at antenatal, and when the focal child was 9-months, 23-months (ie nearly 2-years old) and 45-months old (ie nearly 3.5-years old). Family structure was not available at the 54-month wave (ie when the child was nearly 4.5-years old) – the wave in which child outcomes were measured. In total, we were able to include family structure measures at four time points.
In the externally available GUiNZ dataset, family structure is coded by the GUiNZ research team into four mutually exclusive groups from a household roster reported by the primary respondent (mostly the biological mother). These are:
1. living with two parents and no other adults
2. living with one parent and no other adults
3. living with one or two parents, and other adults who are kin
4. living with one or two parents, and other adults who are not kin (and potentially other
adults who are kin).
It is important to note four primary limitations in this conceptualisation of family structure. (My emphasis)

I am constantly frustrated by data limitations because relationship status between parents, and parents and children in some cases, is ignored.

I am not a political conservative. But science finds committed parents (mostly manifested through a marriage) stay together more than any other co-producers of children. Their children demonstrably benefit from this. Most sociologists - and governments by extension -  are impervious though.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Low institutional trust by ethnicity

 Despite considerable variation between groups Parliament is the least trusted institution regardless.

Is that directly related to low voter turn-out I wonder? I don't particularly trust parliament but I still vote. I don't trust select committees to be impartial. Neither do I trust the current speaker to be neutral.When OIA responses are severely redacted or reports withheld  I don't trust claims of transparency.

Why is Asian trust the highest? Is it comparative to their country of origin parliaments?

I like graphs that pose more questions than they answer.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Cruel "benefit cuts"?

 Someone mentioned to me that the government were going to cut benefits. "They're cutting our incomes!"


Turns out they were talking about the "benefit cuts" combined advocates are now calling the end of the winter energy payment.

For instance:

Incomes are scheduled to be cut by up to $63 a week for many of New Zealand’s lowest-income households in less than a month, but Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) are both urging the Government to immediately raise family incomes instead, as an ongoing crisis-response measure. Families and couples receiving benefits and New Zealand Superannuation are set to get $63 less a week, and singles $41 less a week, from 1 October when the Winter Energy Payment (WEP) period ends.

But this is disingenuous.

The winter energy payment is a subsidy on higher heating costs through winter.

Those costs reduce as we move into spring and summer. 

Labour can't take a trick at the moment.

The WEP was 'kind'.

But taking it away is 'cruel'.