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- Added September 28th, 2012
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By Laura Black in All Sorts
Some thoughts on benefitsWHO BENEFITS?
Over the last month the ODT has reported on what the government is thinking about welfare:
• Drug testing on way for jobseekers (28/8/12) • Poverty line measurement not a priority: Bennett (16/8/12) • Crims on run to lose benefits (5/9/12) • $78b for a lifetime of benefits: report (12/9/12) • Beneficiary education move shocks childhood experts (12/9/12)
You could be excused for thinking by golly, this would be a good time to not be on welfare, and you'd be right! Because if you were on a benefit, you'd probably be thinking: well ok, but where are the jobs?
Looking a little bit further than the ODT, The National Business Review (yes, really) has an answer: Get used to higher unemployment say economists (17/8/12). Radio New Zealand takes a good punt at it too: Manufacturers criticise govt for failing to stem job losses (11/9/12) and NZ economy lost jobs (13/9/12).
Casting our net wider (for there are an inestimable number of fish in this sea!) we find in the (statistically rotten-to-the-core) national standards results published this week educational achievement tracks with family poverty. Not that this wasn't known already - the OECD published just last week on this very matter, explaining that the resources at home that feed learning (literally and figuratively) are crucial to success as school.
It's now possible to say these - entirely accurate - things about poverty in New Zealand:
- Poverty is associated with lack of work; - Poverty recycles itself, poor parents generally raise poor children and
poor children generally become low-income adults ... - Low inflation and high interest rates (NZ's congenital condition) cause a high exchange rate, which hampers our export economy, which
produces ... - Higher levels of unemployment.
So who benefits when the government sets about so ferociously blaming those on welfare for their plight?
Michel Sandel, the American philosopher and Harvard Professor, has said that It isn't just that [inequality] is unfair to those at the bottom; it's that too great a gap between the haves and the have-nots hollows out civic life. It diminishes the possibility that we can share and live a common life, sufficient to foster shared values, sufficient to the kind of life and the kind of citizenship wherein we can deliberate about common purposes and ends.
Prof Sandel is suggesting, very strongly, that no-one wins when the government tries to leverage political benefit from high welfare needs. Yet they keep doing it. Why is that?
For the record, the Council of Trade Unions has just this month published its list of 10 Actions to Reduce Poverty in New Zealand. They are:
1. Raise the minimum wage aggressively, now. 2. Increase incomes to households reliant on welfare benefits. 3. Provide GOOD jobs. 4. Create the conditions for good employment practices and job creation. 5. Provide strong public health programmes and services. 6. Ensure access to low cost, good quality housing. 7. Make sure children have good nutrition and enough food.
8. Build education and skill levels, and the rewards for them. 9. Reinstitute the 38% tax rate for very high earners, while reducing the
rate of GST. 10. Provide low-cost access to essential public services (e.g. electricity).
To find out more take a look at http://union.org.nz/news/2012/ten-actions-reduce-poverty-new-zealand.