Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Bitter sweet nostalgia and a prediction I stand by

From my archives, a post written just prior to the 2017 election:

Jacinda versus Bill: TV One Debate

Jacinda would be great cast as the humble, charismatic  up-and-coming politician who wins hearts and minds. Tom Hanks would play the male equivalent.

But this is an election. Not Hollywood.

Bill wouldn't be cast by any director. He gets tongue-twisted, he misses his cues and he resides very much in the head space where facts are a given and don't need ardent defence or advocacy. They speak for themselves - thank goodness. Because he does't.

But on a more subtle level, Bill versus Jacinda found a perfect performance in him. There was not a skerrick of anything  unsightly or ugly. He looks like the man who continues to do the business; who gets what aspiring NZers are about, and is respectful. We might have preferred more sass and sparks but that wasn't going to happen.

Bill is a bit of a bumbler. The crew had to contain him when the show ended. He went to move away and then realised he was supposed to stay still. Is that the man who can't wait to get out of the limelight or the man who needs to move on to the next task?

Personally I just think it's the man who has a job to do and finds all of the media stuff an unwelcome intrusion and burden.

That's the kind of character I would to prefer running the country.

Let's never forget that as Minister for Social Welfare Steve Maharey spent his period in office defending welfare dependency. Bill English turned that on its head. He sought to understand what drove it and what would reduce it. English goes deep when it comes to social deprivation.

Jacinda would return to pulling the levers that drive it.

The longer we delay raising the Super age, the more painful it will be

 The country is facing  not only a cartload (polite descriptor) of debt to be repaid but burgeoning costs of supporting a rapidly expanding 65+ population.

An article from Stuff today compares NZ's system to others noting:

This year’s Global Pension Index from Mercer showed that New Zealand’s retirement income system had slipped down the rankings, from eighth to 10th.

Then the retirement commissioner points out:

...that might sound worrying but the country was still in the “B team”. Only Netherlands and Denmark scored an A. 

What is the retirement age in these two countries?

 In the Netherlands it is currently 66 years and 4 months and will reach 67 in 2024. Most interestingly, "For those born after 30 September 1957, the statutory retirement age is linked to life expectancy."

And in Denmark what was 65 is gradually rising to age 67 from 2019 to 2022 and to age 68 by 2030.

New Zealand is well out of step with most other nations notably those we most frequently align with - the UK, Australia and the US.

The longer we delay raising the Super age, the more rapid and painful the inevitable implementation will be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Little will to get people into jobs


When people receive a benefit they have certain obligations eg to accept a job when one becomes available. If they fail to meet these obligations they lose part or all of their benefit.

Has that become an archaic idea?

Naturally the imposition of sanctions dropped off during the initial lock-down but since then the numbers have been very low.

I believe one reason is that WINZ has been so busy processing applicants for assistance other functions have been suspended.

But it is also likely that compaints from various sectors that they can't find workers is also connected with WINZ reticence/inability to actually chase people up to meet their obligations.

When Labour took office in 2017 they appointed the Welfare Expert Advisory Group to make recommendations on the overhaul of the welfare system. Here is an excerpt from one of the papers provided to the group:

Out of 40 [OECD] countries, New Zealand ranked:

 6th most strict for availability requirements and suitable work criteria

 20th (in the middle of the group) for strictness of job-search requirements and


 27th for strictness of sanctions

 14th most strict overall (Langenbucher, 2015).

It'd be safe to say NZ will have fallen down those rankings since. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Over a third of Maori children on welfare before first birthday


Around 36 percent of Maori children aged 0 were included in a benefit during the year ended July 2020. This is up from 33.7% in the year to July 2017. For non-Maori the proportion is 18% - up from 15.9% three years earlier.

These stats sit at the core of ongoing and disproportionate Maori disadvantage.

The answer isn't to increase benefit payment rates (which the new Labour government will come under enormous pressure to do.) It's to increase educational achievement and employment.