Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: What about that Welfare Working Group, then?

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  • Sacha,

    DomPost editorial continues the conflation of increasing total beneficiaries over time with the small number of long-term recipients (and like the WWG dunces, gets there by just ignoring the significant social/structural changes since 1980).

    Benefit dependency is on the verge of becoming an intractable problem. How do you signal to fit, healthy individuals that it is unacceptable to spend their lives on benefits without punishing their children? The answer is you can't. However, something must be done to reverse the increase in beneficiary numbers.

    and concludes by saying exactly what the government wants to hear:

    A fundamental reassessment of the rights and obligations attached to welfare is needed.

    Chicken Little would be proud.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    They almost had it right.

    "A fundamental reassessment of the rights and obligations attached to corporate welfare is needed."


    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • peterpeasant,

    Just love the idea of sending beneficiaries out to find non existent jobs.

    Mind you, they only have to be employed for less than 90 days and the employers can treat them like rubbish and fire them.

    Yeah it could work to lower the statistics, from month to month.

    Crosby Textor could spin this wonderfully.

    new zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    …and who want to work. I spent a bit of time on the dole, at my great age, when I just couldn’t find any work. Applied for jobs I was qualified for, but never even got an interview. It was soul destroying. Numbing. And the amount I got from Winz was so pathetic, it didn’t go anywhere near what a reasonable person needs in order to live. It was probably the most demeaning, humiliating time I’ve ever had in my (previously) productive working life.

    It always comes back, very quickly, to the assumption that the poor and/or criminals aren't really like the rest of society. They don't want to work. They don't mind being humiliated and poor and desperate, or in prison. In fact, they prefer it, because it's so much cushier than holding down a real job like us right-minded productive citizens. Why, they get nearly half of minimum wage! A week! What lazy criminal would want more?

    It's an assumption, in fact, that social mobility is a one-way phenomenon, that anyone who doesn't achieve upwards mobility was Found Unworthy, and that the stick is far, far more effective than the carrot. That "we" are not and never have been and never will be poor; "we" are not, and never have been, and never will be criminals; "we" have what we have because we earned it, and if everyone else just tried harder, they could too.

    And it's fucking creepy.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    Lucy. Your last paragraph could have come from the USA Republican handbook. And it resonates here amongst many. Sadly.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    From the Department of Labour summary of the latest Household Labour Force Survey:

    Labour market conditions improve strongly
    The latest HLFS showed that the labour market continued to recover over the September 2010 quarter. Employment rose by 1.0% and the unemployment rate declined from 6.9% to 6.4%. Despite the significant volatility seen in the HLFS data over the first three quarters of 2010, the September 2010 quarter results confirm that the unemployment rate has reached its peak and the labour market is improving.

    Sounds good. But if you look further, much of the increase is from a rise in the number of part-time jobs. The male unemployment numbers did drop but the female numbers rose.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 189 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    @Lucy & Ian: It goes to show we do actually have a class system in this country, just not in the British sense.

    Once again, welcome to Forbes-Coates v2.0. Or should that be Miniplenty?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Catherine Delahunty links to the alternative group's report of submissions heard and to the WWG's official wiki to discuss their options paper - and identifies another dodgy use of stats.

    The [WWG] report has a “relentless focus on paid work”, based on the assumption that being in work provides people with the best opportunities to achieve social and economic wellbeing. This “work at all costs” focus fails to address the reality that there simply aren’t jobs for people to go to in the current climate. We just heard that the number of new jobs created in September was the lowest since 1999.

    It’s also a flawed approach because it’s based on some very dodgy uses of facts and figures. The report says that most people on one of the four main benefits (Unemployment, Domestic Purposes, Sickness or Invalids’ Benefit) would be up to $120 per week better off if they worked full time on the minimum wage. Sounds ok, except this assumes that they manage to find work for 40 hours per week. In fact, WINZ considers full time work to be 30 hours per week, and abates the benefit accordingly. If you do the same calculation for 30 hours per week, as economist Paul Dalziel has done, 40 percent of people would actually be worse off taking a minimum wage job than staying on the benefit!

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    At the Alternative Welfare Working Group seminar at Victoria Univesrity yesterday, economist Prof Paul Dalziel urged NZ to invest heavily in children (education, health, housing etc), and this whole problem could be fixed in a generation (the time is has taken for benefit levels to get to this point).

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    And I think one unintended outcome of the WWG's intent would be stiffer resistance to being laid off, if people are scared shitless about living in tent cities and sleeping on park benches. Especially if the 1984 UK miner's strike, and more recently, the bossnappings in France, are anything to go by.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    @Lucy S: and further to back up your argument, the paroling of Bruce Emery. All victims are equal, but some victims are more equal than others.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report Reply

  • Petra, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Garth McVicar is a <insert your own angry swear words here>

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Petra,

    Garth McVicar is a <insert your own angry swear words here>

    Two Minutes Hater.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Some things never change...
    From Norman Lewis' "The Missionaries"
    "‘Witnessing the cheapness of labour by means of the negroes he thought the natives of these islands might be induced to labour in the same way.’ He was mistaken. The enterprise failed, and Mr Orsmond, believing that ‘a too bountiful nature on Moorea diminishes men’s natural desire to work’, ordered all breadfruit trees to be cut down. "
    Excerpt Here

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I can't help wondering how many even of those who claim to wish to stay on the dole mean it and how many are saying that as a means of face-saving. Get turned down for you 10th or hundredth job application and it may be easier to say 'I didn't really try". don't want you friends to know about your mental illness and it may be easier to claim you are faking a physical one. Not to mention you spend long enough out of the workforce and it's very easy to believe that you are not capable of working.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    It's a downward spiral - being overlooked for work when you have hopes of getting something, even if it's not exactly the job of your dreams - is so depressing. After a while, there's a feeling of "why bother? I feel bad enough as it is".

    My business had failed rather badly - I proved absolutely that I am not a businesswoman - and I was in debt. I felt so demoralized I couldn't talk to anyone about what happened without dissolving into tears. Probably wasn't a great job prospect anyway!

    OK now, though :)) But my heart goes out to anyone stuck in the mire. After a while, the feeling of being a failure is with you most of the time. Knowing that there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of others applying for the same job, especially after a few knockbacks, does not give a person much in the way of self-confidence.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Reminds me of a reader's response to a touching post of K-Punk's on the experience of being jobless.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Whilst we’re sharing scarily apposite links from bloggers overseas, this:

    It’s a popular idea these days – Ian Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling certainly see ‘benefit dependency’ (rather than, say, poverty, or limited opportunities) as the greatest scourge of the working classes today. The way to combat benefit dependency is (apparently) to stop paying benefits. This will discourage the next generation from leaning on benefits and make them more self-reliant. The logical conclusion of this argument is that it would be a good thing to stop benefits completely, indefinitely – after the unemployed, the fatherless kids, the various other ne’er-do-wells have all died off (which would naturally happen completely peacefully and without incident, like the characters quietly accepting their fate in ‘On The Beach’), Britain would be able to restabilise with a manageable, morally superior population.

    A caricature? Well, how else is the disincentive supposed to work? Hand out benefits on a lottery basis, perhaps, so only 50% of applicants get money (Chris Grayling could flip the official coin), and repeat every year so that nobody will be able to take their benefits for granted? Getting benefits is already a tedious, drawn-out, humiliating process and benefit-based lifestyles are already shite. Granted, we haven’t pushed this as far as is humanly possible. Nobody has yet implemented Digby Jones’ ace idea of putting the long term unemployed in hostel rooms on starvation rations, for example. But being on the dole isn’t fun. We’ll know when the cushy benefit lifestyle has become a ‘disincentive to succeed’ when we see hedge fund managers jacking it all in to go and sign on at their local Jobcentre.

    And this bit in particular gave me a familiar chill:

    There has been no moral decline. The spread of the myth of one is a product of the perpetual war on welfare that’s been fought by both parties over the last thirty years. Today’s underclass are the old working class. The majority of the population haven’t suddenly developed defective moralities en masse and lost their once-unassailable work ethic. They’re the same people, just living in a very different society. The endlessly-praised hard-working parents and grandparents (case in point here) had the good fortune to grow up in a time when employment was higher, when industry was still the country’s largest employer, and even people with little or nothing in the way of education could reasonably expect to find work for life. It was regimented, dull, badly-regulated work with precious little chance of advancement, true, but it was there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I suppose what stuck with me from my youth living on student allowances and occasionally the dole, plus later reading Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, is what *hard work* being poor is. Because you can’t do really basic, economically sensible things, like buy stuff in bulk because it’s cheaper. If anything breaks down or wears out, replacing it becomes really challenging – you can’t even maintain the crappy lifestyle you have, much less prepare for, like, entropy. And you can’t ever take a break from worrying about money, and you can’t even do anything entertaining that’s really cheap, like go off for a walk on the beach, because you don’t have a car or you can’t afford two extra trips on the bus that week… I mean, it’s not FUN to be poor. I don’t know why anyone writing these reports thinks that people choose it on purpose.

    ETA: I forgot to mention that Giovanni's links about the ritualised process of interviewing made me die a little inside. As I do every time I have to mouth the same platitudes when I go for a job interview. It's all so stupid. The interviewer doesn't believe what they're saying; I don't believe what I'm saying; it's like we're pod people inhabited by automatons or something.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I am currently jobless. It is a horrible experience. Being, as I am, in Australia, I receive no assistance and am currently living on the goodwill of close friends. It's something that I've had to deal with a number of times in the last few years for various reasons, but that doesn't make it easier.

    In many ways it's sometimes harder in New Zealand - you hardly receive enough to survive, but have to live in that gap in-between

    Full employment is a very worthy goal. One which is not pursued by any party in NZ. I think that it is also worth considering that the effect of high unemployment is to give employers considerable choice in choosing their next employee. This may indeed mean that they have the best person for the job, but it has a countervailing effect in keeping people ill-suited to their current role in jobs indefinitely - and with the introduction of 90 day fire at will laws, this effect is intensified. This definitely lowers productivity, as does the low price of labour (yes, there is total factor productivity, but that's a measure which puts the cart before the horse).

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I don’t know why anyone writing these reports thinks that people choose it on purpose.

    I will vote for any party that promises to make every member of the Welfare Working Group live on the income of a beneficiary for 12 weeks.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Petra, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    That was an excellent read! I feels it.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to George Darroch,

    I recall the responsible Minister in Shipley's gummint, think it was Katherine Regan, making a similar offer for *one* week. Advocates suggested it might be a better challenge for a beneficiary to handle her weekly Ministerial salary of about $1600 instead.

    They also pointed out that for any short period to be comparable it had to be adjusted for all the costs that mount up over the year like clothing, school stationery, school holiday recreation, car maintenance and replacing household gear when it breaks.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Petra, in reply to George Darroch,

    12 weeks in the winter.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Petra, in reply to Sacha,

    Indeed, Sacha.

    Make that 12 weeks in the winter, with a vehicle that has just failed it's warrant and needs re-registering, an outstanding doctor's bill to pay 'cos your child had tummy bug, and a freakin' washing machine that's just clapped out on you again.

    Actually, make that 24 weeks, because you missed out on that sales/retail/whatever job you went for, just because you needed a blimmin' haircut to look 'professional'.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

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