Friday, October 22, 2021

MSD stocktake: "...not yet following the desired direction of travel..."

The Ministry of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni's portfolio, has just released its annual report. Here are some of the indicators of their 'progress':

Average future years on a benefit:

Median time to house clients on the housing register:

Percentage of clients exiting main benefit who return to main benefit (within one year):

Client net trust score:

The official word on this failure is:
Results, in general, indicate that performance is not yet following the desired direction of travel for all indicators.

The Chief Executive's forward should reassure us all though. Never fear - the waka is turning!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

No jab, no unemployment benefit

 As this country inches closer to a 'no vaccination, no job' scenario, the question on my mind - one I'm sure must have crossed others - is, will vaccinations be mandated for receipt of an unemployment (or other) benefit?

The 2011 welfare working group set up under National (not to be confused with the Labour's WEAG headed by Cindy Kiro, about to be sworn in as new GG) considered whether benefits could be used to compel parents to immunise their children. The idea was never implemented. A condition of receiving the Young Parent Payment for 16-19 year-olds stopped at, "you must also enrol your child (or children) at a medical centre or with a doctor."

Australia financially penalises parents who fail to immunse their child through reducing family benefit. That began under the Howard government. So there is a sort of precedent for linking vaccination to benefit receipt.

I've had a look around the world to see what other countries are doing in this area. Not much. Most are still grappling with mandating vaccines for certain employment sectors.

In the US unemployment benefits (which are distinct from other  Social Security benefits):

If an employer terminates you because you don’t follow its policies, it has “cause” to fire you. And if you’re fired “for cause,” you may be ineligible to claim unemployment benefits.

“Every state defines ‘for cause’ differently,” Mariel Smith, partner at law firm Hall Booth Smith, PC. “Most states have similar statutes that indicate if an employee is terminated for breaking company policy, the employee would be denied unemployment benefits.”


 Some states have made it clear that people terminated for not adhering to vaccination policies are likely precluded from receiving benefits. Oregon is one example of a state that has mandated health care, education, and government workers to get vaccinated. The head of the state Employment Department has said eligibility will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but those terminated by public or private employers for refusing to get vaccinated probably won’t be eligible.

Notice in the first sentence two incomaptible words - 'clear' followed by 'likely'. The latter negates the former. Oregon sounds more definitive. 

Three days ago:

New York state's labor department makes clear on its website that workers in health care facilities, schools and nursing homes who quit or are terminated for refusing the vaccine will be ineligible for unemployment benefits, unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption to the mandate.

 Last month in Austria:

Job seekers in Austria will risk losing some of their unemployment benefits if they turn down a job offer because it requires getting vaccinated against COVID-19, local media reported Thursday.  

Austria’s Der Standard newspaper shared a letter sent on Aug. 25 by the Austrian Labor Ministry to the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS).

It said that In the event that job hunters refuse any employment offer due to a requirement to get vaccinated, the AMS will have the right to cut their unemployment benefits.

In this case, the unemployment benefits of job seekers who do not have a medical excuse for not getting vaccinated can be blocked for up to six weeks.

This month in Canada:

 People [core public service, as well as air travel and rail employees]  who’ve had only one dose will be given 10 weeks to get their next one before they are put on unpaid leave. They won’t be allowed back at work until they’re either vaccinated or the policy is no longer in effect. Employees put on unpaid leave will generally not qualify for employment insurance benefits, say officials.

That's all a variety of phrase searches turns up presently.

For a long time New Zealanders have appeared happy to pay taxes to support people who choose not to work/ make themselves unemployable. That's the price of having a safety net they say.

But considering how bitterly and deeply divided society here and around the world  is becoming over the decision to covid vaccinate or not, this could be when intolerance of carrying others sets in.

Those who have reluctantly immunised themselves to stay employed (and for other reasons) may feel deep resentment against those who have refused and want to be financially supported as a consequence.

There will be compulsory vaccination ramifications for the welfare state. Just how significant, remains to be seen.

Monday, October 18, 2021

MSD: "What's happening to the number of sole parents on a benefit?"

Until the welfare reforms of 2013 most sole parents on a benefit relied on the DPB - not exclusively but mainly.

Since the introduction of the Sole Parent Support (SPS) benefit, which sole parents only qualify for until their youngest child turns 14, it's been harder to track how many sole parents are actually reliant on welfare. Far more are now receiving Jobseeker support.

Usefully MSD released some research in September, "What's happening to the number of sole parents on a benefit?" Numbers have been increasing - in part due to the economic effect of lock downs  - and they wanted to predict whether the growth trend will continue. More on that later.

First some facts. At January 2021 there were "around 99,000 sole parents receiving a main benefit". Yet at December 31, 2020 there were just 67,563 on SPS. That highlights the significant difference I was talking about. Almost fifty percent more than receive SPS are relying on other benefits.

Of the current total 46 percent are Maori, 28 percent NZ European and 12 percent Pacific Island. Other/ unspecified make up the remainder.

On the upside 99,000 is still fewer than  in the early 2000s. The chart below covers 1996 to the present. The decline since the GFC is due to the falling teen birth rate and increased employment rates of sole parents.

If  the trend reversal could be pinpointed it looks like the beginning of 2018 - well before covid.

As to whether the trend will continue, the authors expect the growth to be "temporary."

I am less certain.

Since Labour took over there has been a clear shift in approach to sole parents. Financial penalties for not naming the father of a child were abolished and early work obligations for mothers who add a child to an existing benefit have been removed. Benefit payment rates increased as did family tax credits, including the Best Start payment for 0-2 year-olds.

The paper itself gives clues to an attitudinal change. For instance,"A strong work focus may not be appropriate for all parents in the long-term..."

There is also a cultural tolerance, bordering on apologism, for the high rate of Maori dependence with,"Wahine Māori have higher and earlier fertility rates than other women, meaning they are more likely to require support from the benefit system as a parent."

Further to this, the following statement appears to endorse sole parenthood for Maori: "...research suggests for tamariki Māori, diverse family trajectories, including living in a sole parent household, may be associated with higher levels of cultural connectedness in some cases."

So in light of the above, including racial indulgence, I will not be surprised if the numbers of sole parents on a benefit actually continues to grow.