Motherhood as career option

July 13, 2014

An interesting comment on Lindsay Mitchell’s column on the greatest risk: from Rosy Fenwicke:

. . . One piece missed from the analysis is the cultural movement which embraced the idealisation of ‘motherhood’ as a career option regardless of the financial means to support this ‘career’ choice. Prior to the ‘liberation’ of women in the 1970s or rather the ‘liberation of entitlement’, motherhood was always associated with how it was to be financially supported in the long term- hence marriage and the partnership with men.

The whole women’s movement, with its middle and upper income roots, did no service to women with little education/income or their children. Likewise the liberation of women, liberated men from their connection with parenting and their responsibilities towards their offspring.

I do think the liberation of women is a good thing but it is only now that the younger generation is getting it right and pairing it with the need to assume the responsibilities which go with it- earning your own living!

My generation may well have been the last to have been brought up with the expectation that we would marry and have children, in that order; that we would probably give up our careers, or at least put them on hold while our children were young; and that our husbands would provide for our families.

That was before the DPB which enabled women to escape abusive relationships, but also enabled them to replace their children’s fathers with the state.

I wouldn’t want to return to the days that women and their children were beholden to their husbands for everything and trapped in dreadful situations because they were financially dependent on bad men.

But I applaud government initiatives which are working with women on the DPB to help them help themselves and escape the poverty trap in which welfare can snare them.


Most deep-seated deprivation occurs in beneficiary families

July 10, 2014

Quote of the day:

Employment for existing sole parents, and deterrence for prospective, particularly young parents, is the most effective approach to reducing child poverty. Lindsay Mitchell

This is a very small part of a post which deserves to be read in full.

It shows that being in a benefit-dependent family is the greatest predictor of child poverty.

That isn’t an argument for more generous benefits.

It’s an argument in favour of current government policies which aim to help people from welfare to work, for their own sake and the sake of their children.

 

Great work by Paula Bennett MP and all the social sector team.

The post is an opinion piece in this week’s Listener which also published two letters:

Your support of Professor Jonathan Boston’s definition of child poverty in New Zealand (Editorial, July 5) simply perpetuates the debate over how much money to throw at the problem. But money is just a glib answer to so many of society’s ills and, in this case, skirts around the elephant that’s filling the room.

A child without access to a flat-screen TV and missing out on birthday parties might constitute deprivation from an academic perspective, but the most pervasive manifestation of poverty, and the most distressing to witness, is that of three- and four-year-olds who have never known or been shown love and affection from their parents; children who are emotional vacuums.

Boston argues that children from poor homes are less likely to succeed educationally. He’s just missed that elephant. Although emotionally deprived children are almost exclusively from low-income households, a household having a low income is not the cause of such child neglect. In fact, if a child from a low-income home is loved and emotionally secure, the scholastic disparity with children from more affluent backgrounds is almost non-existent.

Any early childhood teacher will testify that before a child can start to learn, he or she must be emotionally engaged. Teaching and engaging a child from an emotionally deprived background is almost impossible and certainly beyond the resources of most early-childhood educational centres. And without early intervention, these emotionally deprived children will later help to fill our mental and correctional facilities.

Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes to the problems of bad parents – parents who probably shouldn’t be parents – and social agencies that are poorly resourced and pursue the least challenging options. Nonetheless, a good start would be recognition and debate on New Zealand’s real child poverty issue: the love-starved little ones.

Roger Clarke
(Te Awamutu)

Poverty isn’t just financial it’s emotional too.

The second letter builds on this point

Your editorial appears very “ambulance at the foot of the cliff” stuff.

Everyone would agree it is not in society’s best interests to have malnourished children suffering various degrees of brain damage as a result of poor nutrition. Although there will be exceptions to this generalisation, it is reasonable to assume that a high percentage of parents of such children are just incompetent in a variety of ways – quite possibly as a result of ignorance and deprived upbringings of their own.

The priority needs to be to identify the poor carers and the common causes of their inabilities to cope. Then introduce policies that direct resources at those people while forcing them to address their shortcomings.

The majority of carers on low incomes are managing to bring up children who are adequately loved, fed, clothed and housed. For the deprived children, the issue in a great many cases is more that of carer competency than available cash. More money is not necessarily going to solve anything in such situations if the underlying competency issues are not addressed.

Denis Muir
(RD2, Kaiwaka)

This is why National’s policy is to work with teen parents to educate them and help them help themselves and their children.

Lack of money can be part of the problem but lack of knowledge, skills and love are often contributing factors to child poverty too.

That can happen in families at any income level.


Fewer teen births

July 9, 2014

One of National’s initiatives was to take an actuarial approach to welfare.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett sought, and got, figures for the long-term cost of welfare then worked on policies which would help reduce it.

Among the initiatives she introduced were those aimed at reducing teen-births – and they’re working.

Lindsay Mitchell writes:

. . . For years I have agitated about the long-term DPB population being derived from teenage births. The children of these parents form the most at-risk group.

But from 2008 the number of teenage births started dropping. In 2013 there were 29 percent fewer than in 2009.

But even better, at March 2009 there were 4,425 teenage parents on any main benefit. By March 2014 the number had dropped to 2,560. A 42 percent reduction.

The really important news is it’s happening across all ethnicities.The proportions are reasonably stable.

In 2009, 52 percent were Maori; in 2013, 55 percent.

For Pacific Island, the proportion rose slightly from 9 to 11 percent.

NZ European dropped from 29 to 25 percent.

The percentage who are aged 16-17 dropped from slightly from 16.5 to 15%.

The percentage who are male is unchanged 4%.

This means thousands fewer children experiencing poor outcomes – ill-health, disconnect from education,  in and out of fostercare, potentially abused and neglected, having the cards stacked against them from the outset.

Thousands of would-be teen mums will keep their own lives and  potential, and hopefully have children when they are ready to.

It’s a fantastic development.

National deserve at least some credit for it with their new young parent mentoring and benefit management regime. . .

The government can’t claim all the credit, but it has played an important part.

Measures to reduce teen benefit dependency haven’t been punitive nor have they been cheap.

They have involved working with young people to help them turn their lives around for their own sakes and those of their children.

That has both social and financial benefits for them and for the rest of us.

 


Incomes up, poverty down, inequality flat

July 9, 2014

The left tried to manufacture a manufacturing crisis and manufacturing improved.

They’ve declared a housing crisis and are particularly critical of the government’s social housing initiatives.

But Lindsay Mitchell reports good news on that front too:

. . . On the positive side,  in March 2008 the HNZC waiting list stood at 9,935. Now the number is 5,840 and includes those waiting for other social housing. A good news story for National. . .

And there’s improvement on two other problems on which the Left has been critical of the government – child poverty and inequality.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the latest Household Incomes Report showing child poverty has fallen three percent.

“Today’s release shows we are making progress.  From a survey conducted between July 2012 and June 2013, findings show that median household incomes rose four percent in real terms in the two years since July 2011,” says Mrs Bennett.

“While the gains since 2011 were shared reasonably evenly across incomes, the global recession in the two years previous impacted slightly more on lower incomes.  The report also shows that trend-line inequality has remained flat.

“This latest research shows New Zealand households have bounced back.  In the past year 84,000 more jobs have been added to the New Zealand economy, 8,600 sole parents have come off benefit in the past year and there are nearly 30,000 fewer children in benefit dependent households compared to two years ago.

Moving from welfare to work is one of the best ways to address poverty for adults and any children who depend on them.

Yet the opposition have opposed and criticised every move National has made to help people get off benefits and on to wages.

“Nevertheless the Government recognises more needs to be done to support our most vulnerable families. 

“Which is why, on top of free breakfasts to all schools that want it, a social worker in all decile 1-3 schools and warming up nearly 300,000 homes, we are in this year’s budget investing nearly $500 million over four years in services and support for families. 

Initiatives include:

  • $171.8 million to boost the paid parental leave scheme. Paid leave will be extended by four weeks – starting with a two-week extension from 1 April 2015, and another two weeks from 1 April 2016. The eligibility of paid parental leave will also be expanded to include caregivers other than parents (for example, permanent guardians), and to extend payments to people in less-regular work or who recently changed jobs.
  • $42.3 million to increase the parental tax credit from $150 a week to $220 a week, and increase the entitlement from eight weeks to 10 weeks, from 1 April 2015.
  • $90 million to enable GPs to offer free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under the age of 13, starting on 1 July 2015. Over 400,000 more children will benefit by including six- to 12-year-olds.
  • An additional $155.7 million to help early childhood centres remain affordable, meet demand pressures and increase participation towards the Government’s 98 per cent target.
  • $33.2 million in 2014/15 to help vulnerable children, including eight new children’s teams around the country to identify and work with at-risk children and their families, to screen people who work with children, and to support children in care.

“Recognising that housing costs are a significant issue for low income families, the Government is investing $95.7 million of new money into social housing over the next four years.

“There’s more financial assistance to help people into private rentals to free up social housing for those who need it most, there’s new funding to grow more social housing in partnership with NGOs, and easier social housing assessment processes with the transfer of responsibility to Work and Income

“This Government is determined to improve the lives of children in low income families by targeting resources to services and support that are guaranteed to make a difference for those children,” says Mrs Bennett. 

The Household Incomes Report for the 2012 calendar year can be found at: www.msd.govt.nz

Lindsay Mitchell notes:

Using MSD’s Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI), hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011, then fell to 17% in HES 2012. The trend finding is robust, though the actual levels at any time depend on a judgement call on the threshold used.

 Poorer people will always be hardest hit by hard times.

But the government borrowed to take the hardest edges off the GFC for the most vulnerable and has put a lot of effort into addressing the causes of poverty – one of the biggest of which is benefit dependence.

There’s still a long way to go but the trend is in the right direction – inequality is stable, benefit dependency has reduced and poverty is declining.


Politics Daily

June 3, 2014

New Zealand Politics Daily is taking  a break.

I don’t have the time or inclination to provide the same service of a reasonably comprehensive list of links to news stories and blog posts on issues of the day.

However, I’m willing to start with a few and invite anyone who has read anything I’ve missed to add a link to it in a comment.

I won’t pretend to be balanced – there will be more links to blogs of a bluer hue. Anyone who wants the red and green end of the spectrum better represented is welcome to leave links.

John Key in Samoa

BeehiveNZ to invest $1 million into Samoa’s tourism sector:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will invest $1 million to help boost Samoa’s tourism sector. . .

Tova O’Brien - Pacific voters warming to National:

With large sections of New Zealand’s Pacific Island community now gravitating towards National, the battle for the Pacific vote has gone offshore. . . .

Immigration

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – So what will Labour cut?

is claiming that it will cut migrant numbers by somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 to get net migration from 40,000 to somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000. . .

Pete George @ Your NZ – Cunliffe still vague on immigration:

Cunliffe was interviewed about immigration on Q & A on Sunday. . .

Housing

Hannah McLeod @ Southland times - State house sales reap $4m:

Millions of dollars from state housing sales in the south could be going towards new homes in Auckland. . .

Catherine Harris @ Stuff – ‘Holistic’ plan for housing sought:

New Zealand needs a wider discussion about housing affordability and the issues that surround it such as migration, say senior figures in local government. . .

RadioNZ – Fast-track housing plan for Taruanga:

Tauranga City Council wants special rules to speed up housing developments.

 Labour Party

Andrea Vance @  Stuff – Labour MPs not happy with Mana Internet:

Senior Labour Party MPs have used social media to attack the alliance struck between Mana and the Internet Party. . .

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – White-anting in Labour? Surely not…:

Is David Cunliffe being white-anted again? You’d have to wonder after reading Andrea Vance’s story on Stuff: . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Things are falling apart in Labour:

When something happens that isn’t going the way a political party particularly wants, they need to get together, work out a strategy, and communicate that coherently. . . .

 Isaac Davison @ NZ Herald –   Labour looks at changing $10m-for-residency scheme:

Labour is looking “very closely” at changing the rules for foreign investors who can get residency in New Zealand by paying $10 million. . .

IMP

Chris Keall @ NBR – Laila Harre NBR interview part 2: Baboom offshoring jobs; getting paid; the UFB; how she rolls:

Chris Keall – Where’s all the Baboom development taking place? . . .

Cameron Slater @ whale Oil – Internet Mana Party “a joke from the far left” – Key:

Unlike our media, John Key is refusing to take the Internet Mana Party seriously. . .

Josie Pagani @ Pundit – Say no to the cup of Te:

No way should Labour do a ‘Cup of Te’ deal.

Labour should stand up for its own strong values. . .

Danyl Mclauchlan @ Dim Post – On the logic behind a strategic loss:

Rob Salmond makes fun of Bomber, which is something we can all enjoy. But I do think that Bomber’s theory that a faction within the Labour Party would prefer a National victory in 2014 if the alternative is a Labour/Greens/New Zeland First/Mana/Internet Party government is pretty plausible. . .

Q & A @ TVNZ –  Laila Harre   interviewed by Susan Wood:

SUSAN: Long time unionist and left wing politician Laila Harre is back, she’s been a member of Labour, New Labour, Alliance, and the Greens, and now she’s taking the helm of the Internet Party, she joins me now good morning. Most political parties are built on something positive, on a movement, on beliefs. How can the Internet Mana Party which is built on yes, wanting to change a government, but an almost pathological dislike of the Prime Minister work? How can it be a force for good? . . .

Carbon Tax

Andrew McMartin @ TV3 – Carbon tax means nothing without Labour – English:

The Green Party’s carbon tax policy “means nothing” without Labour support, Finance Minister Bill English says. . . .

Peter Cresswell @ Not PC – The Greens cutting taxes?

Let’s start with the good news. . .

Lindsay Mitchell – Support for the Greens carbon tax surprises:

The Taxpayer’s Union has come out in support of a carbon tax that is revenue neutral. On balance they find it preferable to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I wonder why we need either. . . .

Mark Hubbard @ Life Behind the Iron Drape - Green Naivety: Carbon Tax:

Julie Anne Genter is a New Zealand Green MP, and promoting the NZ Green Party policy this election year of a carbon tax, including on agriculture – dairy, initially, with other livestock to follow presumably. . .

Election

Rob Hosking @ NBR – Election 2014 – The Minors’ Strike:

The Green party must be quite relieved its conference was this weekend . . .

Scoop – Northland Leader Backs Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau:

Northland Kaumatua Rudy Taylor says Labour MP Kelvin Davis has the heart and the mana along with total support to win the seat of Te Tai Tokerau in the upcoming general election. . .

Scott Yorke @ Imperator Fish – How to win an election:

It’s all about the party vote. Electorate contests can be distracting, because in most cases they will be irrelevant to the result. A few electorate results will be critical, but only where they would allow a minor party to enter Parliament. . .

Scoop - iPredict Ltd 2014 Election Update #19: 30 May 2014:

Key Points:
• Internet Mana forecast to win 3 seats
• National expected to sneak in with minor parties’ support . . .

Christchurch

Beehive - Vodafone to anchor Innovation Precinct:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today released the spatial framework for the Christchurch Innovation Precinct and announced that Vodafone’s new South Island headquarters will anchor the precinct. . .

The Christchurch Innovation Precinct will bring together some of our most innovative people to help create an exciting and vibrant future for Christchurch. http://ntnl.org.nz/1oq447h

Education

Beehive – Budget 2014: $28.6m investment in ICT Grad Schools:

The Government will invest $28.6 million operating funding (including $11.8 million of contingencies) over the next four years in three Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Graduate Schools to help address significant high-level skills shortages in the rapidly growing ICT industry, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says. . . .

Beehive – $359m boost for student achievement moves forward:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has welcomed advice from sector leaders on the Government’s $359 million initiative to raise student achievement, saying it maintains momentum and strengthens the path forward. . .

Other

Trans Tasman – Trans Tasman Announces Government Department and Government Department CEO of The Year:

Trans Tasman’s 5th Annual Briefing Report – New Zealand Government Departments People and Policy, 2014 Edition , has announced its top performing Government Department of the Year and the best Government Department CEO. The pair is chosen by a 16 strong Independent Board of Advisers . .

Hamish Rutherford @ Reserve Bank governor named top chief executive:

A former top international banker, who stared down the Beehive with lending restrictions and official cash rates rises months from the election, is this year’s public sector chief executive of the year.  . .

Matthew Beveridge – Green Party AGM:

Queen’s Birthday Weekend was also the weekend the Green Party held their annual conference. As one would expect, there were a number of policy announcements, free doctors visits for up to 18 year olds and a change from the ETS to a Carbon Tax system. . .

Bob Jones @ NZ Herald - A message to screaming John Minto: Shut up:

If Parliament proposed a nationwide synchronisation of clocks and watches, then at a given date and time, invited everyone who’s had an absolute gutsful of the screaming skull, otherwise known as John Minto, to go outside and jump up and down for two minutes, imagine the reaction. . .

Lindsay Mitchell – More welfare changes on the way:

The government has announced a rewrite of the Social Security 1964 Act, which is a massive maze of dated legislation. . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Political porkies:

It seems the minor parties are able to get away with making stuff up, or flat out lying.

As a new service we will now start calling out these ratbags. . . .

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – The new blockbuster:

It’s a poster of Dr No, you’ll have to pop over to see it.

Adam Bennett @ NZ Herald – Peters rubbishes claim he paid Harawira’s protest fine:

Current and former MPs and “ordinary people” banded together to pay the $632 fine Hone Harawira received last year for defying police at a 2012 Auckland housing protest. . 

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Pay your own fine Hone:

Hone Harawira is in trouble over trouble he was in last year. If that sounds confusing, hopefully the Herald will explain: . . .

NBR – Labour might revisit MMP’s ‘coat-tail’ provisions if elected — Cunliffe:

David Cunliffe says Labour may revisit MMP’s “coat-tail” provisions if elected . . .


Is welfare part of the problem?

March 21, 2014

Is poverty driving family break-ups?

Surprise Census figures suggest that poverty may be breaking up the nuclear family. . .

Wellington analyst Paul Callister and Statistics NZ demographer Robert Didham said in Auckland poverty was increasingly concentrated because of housing costs.

“What you are seeing in Auckland is a real sorting effect in the housing market, it’s pushing the sole parents into certain areas,” Dr Callister said.

He said the welfare system meant many couples were better off by separating. Welfare entitlements are based on family income, so if one person loses a job they can’t get a benefit if their partner is working. . .

Lindsay Mitchell points out that this isn’t a chicken or egg scenario:

For a nuclear family to “break-up” it has to exist first. In 2012 the proportion of unmarried births was 48 percent. In the same year, 21 percent of babies born were dependent on welfare – usually the DPB – by Christmas. Around half of these children will spend 7 or more years in the benefit system.

It isn’t poverty driving family disintegration. It’s the availability and heavy use of welfare. This is particularly prevalent amongst Maori because welfare incomes are close to incomes from low paid, unskilled jobs.

As the article notes, “Education is also a powerful factor.” Exactly. In time females with qualifications and aspirations may choose not to embark on a career of poverty-stricken single parenthood. Then again, as long as it’s a seemingly ‘easy’ option the pattern of single mothering and subsequent hardship will continue.

If welfare is regarded as a preferred option for people it is part of the poverty problem, not the solution.

Welfare has a place for those unable to look after themselves, some of those will require long-term, possibly permanent assistance.

But for most recipients it should be a temporary safety net not a long-term hammock.

This is why this government’s policies which are addressing long-term benefit dependency are helping those who can help themselves to do so.


The heart of the issue

February 13, 2014

Answer of the day:

Hon PAULA BENNETT: For me this gets to the heart of the actual issue. So the member thinks that it is only the Government’s throwing money around and getting into every household and giving them 60 bucks a week for a newborn baby that is going to make the difference. I actually think it is not about just the Government; it is about the Government, community, and parents themselves actually putting their children first in many instances. It is about what is happening in the streets. It is about what organisations like the Salvation Army do. So I do not think it is a D for the Government. In fact, what the Salvation Army did say was that “as a national community,”— and I quote—“we have made credible and worthwhile social progress. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate this because, for the most part, it is intentional and hard won. The Government should be applauded for its contribution to this progress.” Paula Bennett

She was responding to a question on child poverty and she’s right.

Children are living in poverty for several reasons and there is no single or simple solution.

The government is helping with no assistance from the opposition who have resisted every measure to reform welfare which is one of the most effective ways to lift families from poverty.

However, government can’t replace parents who don’t put children first.

But it can make matters worse as Lindsay Mitchell observes on similarities between Maori and African American families on welfare:

. . . Both ethnicities had large families. So payments per child could mount up. The sums may have seemed relatively small to middle class families, but for people coming from a paltry income base – Maori from subsistence and African Americans from the abiding legacy of slavery – the sums were meaningful.

From there it is all too easy to understand how the male of these two cultures became increasingly dispensable. The state would provide a steady and guaranteed income if he disappeared. His absence might sometimes be  ‘manufactured’  but in the final analysis, his financial utility was deeply degraded. He had a heavy weight competitor in the government.

(And still some politicians want to continue and even increase these types of ‘needy’ children policies ignoring the damage that visits on the family structure which best supports those kids financially and emotionally.)

One of the reasons for children in poverty is the breakdown of families and the replacement of a wage earner by a benefit.

The solution to that isn’t more welfare.


Greens are dangerous

January 26, 2014

Quote of the day:

Greens are la-la dreamers. I wasn’t going to make comment but then thought better. Their idealism is naive but it’s not harmless. It’s dangerous. So this year it needs to be exposed as regularly as it appears. Lindsay Mitchell

Labour has been trying to out-red the Greens in order to shore up their left flank.

That will be difficult.

The Green Party trades on its association with the environment.

But that’s just a cover for its foundation of radical socialist economic and social policies which are anything but sustainable – economically, environmentally or socially.


Case for optimism

January 9, 2014

At this time of year when people are making predictions on what the next 12 months will bring, it’s instructive to look back at what people were predicting a few decades ago.

In The Case for Optimism, entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda writes:

Let me take you back in time to the late 1970s for they seemed to mark the beginning of the end of Western Civilization. OECD countries were suffering from stagflation with inflation and unemployment above 10%. We had suffered from 2 oil shocks. The US had lost Vietnam. The Shah had fallen in Iran. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. Dictatorships were the norm in Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Latin America and even Southern Europe. The Club of Rome had made dire predictions that the world would run out of oil, coal and many natural resources within 40 years.

No one predicted that over the next 40 years there would be democracies across Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe; that inflation and unemployment would fall dramatically; that we would see the greatest creation of wealth in the history of humanity as 1 billion people came out of poverty. 650 million came out of poverty in China alone, completely changing urban landscapes across the country as a whole. Despite 40 years of record consumption of oil and natural gas we now have more reserves than we did then. The way we work and live has been profoundly transformed by computers, the Internet and mobile phones.

If we take a further step back, we can see that over the last 100 years economic downturns, be they recessions that occur every few years or bigger crisis such as the great depression, as painful as they are while we live them, barely register in a background of unabated economic growth. In fact over the last 100 years human lifespans have doubled from 40 to 80, average per capita income has tripled and childhood mortality has divided by 10. The cost of food, electricity, transportation and communications have dropped 10 to a 1,000 fold. Global literacy has gone from 25% to over 80% in the last 130 years.

We have redefined what poverty means. Today 99% of Americans in poverty have electricity, water, toilet and refrigerator. 95% have a television. 88% have a mobile phone. 70% have a car and air conditioning. The richest people 100 years ago could only dream of such luxuries.

We are also living in the most peaceful time in human history; not just of recent history, but in the history of humanity. We are truly living in extraordinary times. . .

He goes on to look at improvements in technology, health, public service, education , transportation, communication and energy and concludes:

. . .  Think about it. Computing power was so expensive we had to limit access to it. Now it’s so ubiquitous we use it to play Angry Birds or check Facebook. Its very cheapness has unleashed an extraordinary wave of innovation.

The same will happen with energy. Once it’s cheap many of our other problems go away. The idea that we will face a fresh water shortage is also ludicrous. The earth is 70% covered by water. The issue is once again accessibility as only 1.3% of it is surface fresh water. However in a world of unlimited energy it’s easy to desalinate salt water. In fact we may not even need to wait that long as new innovative devices like the Slingshot are coming on stream that can generate 1,000 liters of pure water per day from any water source, even saline or polluted.

Once fresh water is abundant food also becomes abundant as you can grow crops in the dessert – and that’s not taking into consideration an agriculture productivity revolution that could come from urban vertical farms.

As people we are truly blessed to be living in this amazing time. As entrepreneurs and investors we have the privilege of helping create this better world of tomorrow, a world of equality of opportunity and of plenty.

Closer to home, Lindsay Mitchell notes 10 positive trends in New Zealand: Assaults in police, incidents of sudden infant death, recorded crime,  smoking, abortion, teenage pregnancies, road deaths, child mortality, Maori suicide and rheumatic fever have all declined.

Of course there are still major problems at home and abroad but both writers provide strong cases for optimism.

 


Welfare needs health warning

September 22, 2013

Quote of the week:

Welfare benefits should carry a warning label: “Danger: Taking a benefit may endanger your children.”

That’s because benefit-supported children are six times more likely to be abused or neglected. They are 14 times more likely to be known to Youth Justice. And the longer the time on a benefit, the worse it gets.

Children in households benefit-dependent for nine or more years are 13 times more likely to be abused. And 29 times more likely to be known to Youth Justice.

These are government statistics. They are derived from the Ministry of Social Development’s cohort study titled Children’s Contact with MSD Services. Rodney Hide.

Lindsay Mitchell has also written of the problem:

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has released statistical information that details the overlap between children’s contact with the benefit system, and care and protection or youth justice services.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell is welcoming this overdue research. “The last time MSD conducted a similar exercise was 1996 so an update was well overdue. This time the Ministry has followed the 1993 birth cohort to age 17 to explore levels of contact.

Unfortunately, the data is presented in a way that downplays the risks. The benefit cohort is only ever compared to the overall cohort as opposed to the non-benefit  cohort. This produces a finding  that the benefit cohort had a likelihood of contact with CYF that was,  ’1.5 times that for the overall cohort.’  However, if the non-benefit cohort was the comparison group, the likelihood would rise to 3.4 times.

When MSD examines children on a benefit for 9 or more years who have experienced a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect, they describe the risk as only three times greater than the total population cohort. Again, if this benefit cohort was compared to the non benefit group the increased likelihood rises to nearly 13 times greater.” . . .

Benefits have their place as a safety net for people in temporary need and the few who will never be able to look after themselves.

But welfare can become a trap for people who could, with help, be independent and it’s not just them but their children who are worse off because of that.

A compassionate government isn’t one which fosters dependence, it’s one which helps people from welfare to work, for their sakes and their children’s sakes.


Poverty doesn’t cause abuse

August 15, 2013

The first topic of discussion on Afternoon’s Panel on Tuesday was Paula Bennett’s proposals for countering the scourge of child abuse.

One of the panelists, Gary McCormick, asserted that the root cause of the problem was poverty (starting at about 9:01).

Host Jim Mora said there was disagreement about the extent to which poverty is related to child abuse.

McCormick disagreed.

Guest Anthea Simcock from Child Matters then came on (about 12 minutes) and said while poverty was related to the issues it was not the primary cause and child abuse wouldn’t be fixed by fixing poverty alone.

McCormick came back in (13:56) and told her she was wrong and poverty was the cause of the problems.

She countered that by saying it was a co-existing factor but not a causal one.

He came back and eventually said he refused to believe what she was saying.

This is a prime example of someone not letting the facts getting in the way of their convictions and he’s not the only one.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs:

John Minto says that Labour needs “a kick up the backside” for not pushing the message that poverty is the “key factor” behind child abuse.

He says there are NEVER any excuses for child abuse but there are REASONS behind it.

Unfortunately reasons becomes excuses very easily.

Can I take you back to just a couple of things that people like John Minto ignore.

Child abuse rates are not high amongst all groups with high poverty rates. In fact they are lower amongst poor Asians.

Household incomes of Maori and Pacific families are growing faster than the median, yet the rate of Maori child abuse is not declining. . .

Poverty is a problem but a lot of very poor people love and care for their children and some who aren’t poor abuse them.

The problems of poverty and child abuse both need to be addressed but it is wrong to assert that solving the former will solve the latter.


Unequally rich or equally poor?

June 23, 2013

The problem of inequality might have some traction if you go for emotion rather than facts, but people tend to be better off when inequality is greater and less well off when incomes are more equal:

Earlier this year, the Work Foundation published a study of inequality in Britain that threw up some uncomfortable findings for those who believe that income differentials are the root of all evil. The hypothesis put forward in The Spirit Level is that greater income equality fosters health and happiness while inequality is a direct cause of misery and unrest. ‘If you want to live the American dream,’ says Spirit Level co-author Richard Wilkinson, ‘you should move to Finland or Denmark’. But why travel so far? Inequality varies greatly within countries and so, since wealth disparities are most visible at the local level, moving to a more equal city should yield benefits.

The Work Foundation shows us exactly where these pockets of egalitarianism are. The most equal city in Britain turns out to be Sunderland, followed by such places as Bradford, Peterborough and Burnley. The least equal city is London, followed by the likes of Reading, Guildford and Milton Keynes. For the most part, inequality is concentrated in the wealthy south east of England and, as the study notes, ‘cities with high median wages almost always tend to have high inequality.’ The more equal cities, on the other hand, ‘tend not to be very affluent’. This trade-off between wealth and equality will come as no surprise to economists, but it is reassuring to know that the wealth in the less equal places trickles down. As the study notes, ‘more affluent cities are more unequal, but affluence – on average – leads to wage gains for those with low skill levels’. Furthermore, whilst unemployment is higher in more equal cities, people with low skills find it easier to find work in less equal cities. In short, inequality is associated with people across the income spectrum being better off, while equality is associated with people being equally poor.

Being unequally wealthy is better than being equally poor and better is not just about income:

. . . In the mid-1990s, the US government gave thousands of people living on welfare the opportunity to move from poor neighbourhoods to more affluent areas. Their names were picked by lottery, thereby creating a randomised experiment. The Science study measured the subjective well-being of those who moved and those who stayed after a period of 10 to 15 years. Those who moved were significantly happier. Other studies of the same people have found that those who moved were also significantly healthier, had better mental health and were less likely to be obese.

It is important to note that those who moved did not become wealthier than those who stayed. Still living in social housing, they went from having an income that was average by the standards of their community to having an income that was low in absolute and relative terms. They found themselves at the sharp end of inequality and yet they were healthier and happier than those they left behind. 

Only a certain sort of social scientist could find it remotely surprising that people prefer living in a nice neighbourhood. It is true that people compare their living standards with those of their friends and neighbours, but there is little evidence that such comparisons dictate their well-being. People who leave the ‘more equal’ towns and cities of Britain to seek a better life are unlikely to regret it.

The focus on inequality tends to lead to redistributive policies which are generally counter-productive to economic growth and low growth hits the poorest hardest.
Rather than worrying about how much people have in relation to others, policy makers should focus on providing the environment and opportunities which help people help themselves.

Hat tip: Lindsay Mitchell

 


Dodgy numbers

March 4, 2013

Last week Social Development Minister Paula Bennett issued media releases which said the future focus was helping to reduce the number of people on benefits and benefit figures were under forecast.

Yesterday the Herald on Sunday featured Labour’s Jacinda Ardern saying more people were on benefits.

So who’s right?

Kiwiblog has the figures:

Let’s look at the actual data, in terms of increase or decrease each year. For DPB they are

  • 2008 +2,128
  • 2009 +9,007
  • 2010 +3,576
  • 2011 +1,365
  • 2012 -5,112

I think we now understand why Jacinda left the 2012 figures off. What I don’t know if why the Herald on Sunday did.

Let’s do the same with Invalid’s Benefit numbers.

  • 2008 +3,419
  • 2009 +1,537
  • 2010 +67
  • 2011 -1,062
  • 2012 -472

And for those interested in the Unemployment Benefit.

  • 2008 +7,760
  • 2009 +35,820
  • 2010 +756
  • 2011 -7,120
  • 2012 -6,217

They all show the same thing. The increase in benefit numbers started in 2008 (under Labour) and worsened in 2009 as the Global Financial Crisis struck.  Despite patchy economic growth since 2009, benefit numbers in all three categories have fallen in the last two years.

And Lindsay Mitchell provides more analysis which shows Ardern is wrong.

Opposition MPs are supposed to show up government failings but it’s not at all clever to use dodgy stats to do it.

Reporters are supposed to check facts and provide balance, the one who wrote this story failed on both counts.


The Auckland conundrum

November 9, 2012

If house prices are high in Auckland because more people want to live there.

And more people want to live there because that’s where the jobs are.

How do you explain the latest Household Labour Force Survey which shows higher unemployment there?

Matt Nolan says other factors are also involved in house prices.

And Lindsay Mitchell thinks that the unexpected rise in the number of job seekers could be not so much about people losing jobs but more about people becoming available for and seeking work.

If that’s the case it would show that expecting people on benefits who could work to do so is already having an impact.

However, the real measure of success will be when they find and keep the jobs.

If some of those jobs weren’t in Auckland then that might take some of the pressure of house prices too.


Address cause or treat symptoms

September 17, 2012

That there is a problem of children growing up in poverty is unquestioned.

But most of those who are calling for action on it are directing their pleas at the government to address the symptoms.

Lindsay Mitchell points out that most fail to acknowledge the cause:

. . .  “Wilson and Stoughton (2009) report that about 18 percent of New Zealand children are born to a parent on a main benefit (about 13 percent are born to a parent on the DPB). . . .”

Most people are on a benefit temporarily and will join or return to the workforce as soon as they can.

Some people will never be able to support themselves.

The problem is people who could work who don’t, not because they can’t but because they won’t.

The government’s welfare reforms are aimed at these people for their own sakes and that of the society and the economy. Yet among the strongest opponents of the reforms are the people who want action on poverty.

They are short-changing the people on whose behalf they’re purporting to advocate if they want relief of the symptoms without accepting the need to address the causes.


More than 1/5 babies born dependent on caregiver on welfare by year’s end

May 29, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell has a very sobering statistic: 22.2 percent of babies born in 2011 were dependent on a caregiver receiving a benefit by the end of the same year.

“Over one in five babies reliant on welfare by year-end is a sobering statistic. Almost half of the caregivers were Maori and half were aged 24 or younger.”

“There is an established pattern of childbearing followed by reasonably rapid, if not immediate, recourse to welfare in New Zealand. This occurs during good and bad economic periods.”

“The implications for this high percentage lie in the likelihood of these children remaining on a benefit for many years. . . “

This is the main cause of too many children growing up in poverty and shows why Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is determined to address the causes of benefit dependency.


Hand-up not hand-outs

May 28, 2012

Quote of the day:

New Zealanders want a welfare system we can be proud of. The system must support people who genuinely can’t support themselves, but those who can work should be available for work and actively looking. Better resources and support to help more people off welfare dependency and into work is a clear priority. The system has failed too many New Zealanders by creating dependence and the Ministry of Social Development is moving towards a more active approach that will see greater support in helping more people off welfare and into work.

Young people are a clear priority within welfare reform. We know that those who go on welfare young tend to stay longer than others and have poorer opportunities as a result. Of real concern are the 16 and 17 year olds who become disengaged from education, employment and training and who are on a collision course with the adult welfare system. . .  Paula Bennett

This comes from the Minister’s forward to the Minsiter of Social Development’s Statement of Intent.

The rest of it is worth reading, signalling that this Minister wants real change which results in big improvements in the long-term outlook for young people who might otherwise be left to languish on benefits destined to a life of poverty.

It won’t be easy, nor will it be cheap, but it giving those who need it a hand up  is morally and financially better than giving them hand outs without any expectation that they will become independent.

Hat tip: Lindsay Mitchell


Did you see the one about . . .

May 2, 2012

Herd thinking meet herd immunity- Aimee Whitcroft at Misc-ience has a great cartoon which illustrates the benefits of herd immunity and dangers of herd thinking.

A daughter’s wedding – Look Up At The Sky shares the joy and love.

Eighties reforms recalled - Lindsay Mitchell shows that many of the “failed” polices of the 80s not only succeeded but are still serving us well.

Random numbers - Keeping Stock counting what counts.

Ode to property law – Skeptic Lawyer proves property is power.


Is cost of children public responsibility?

April 11, 2012

My mother was a tutor sister.*

She loved her job and was very good at it but when she married she gave it up while my father worked full-time as a carpenter and built their house in his spare time.

Looking back years later, she said it was ridiculous that she didn’t carry on working but that was something very few married women contemplated in the 1950s.

When we married nearly three decades later almost all women continued to work after marriage, though most gave up when they had children, at least until the youngest was at pre-school.

That has gradually changed and now it is not uncommon for women to return to work much sooner after having children.

Some do it by choice, some to keep up professional qualifications, some because they need/want the money.

There are both costs and benefits to taking time off to have children and continuing working.

The benefits of uninterrupted time for bonding and breast-feeding aren’t disputed.

Juggling the care of a baby and the tiredness that goes with it with paid work is demanding.

Women brought up to believe they can do anything can find full-time parenting very challenging.

The loss of a full or part-time income can strain family budgets.

But is it the public’s responsibility to compensate for that?

Proponents of paid parental leave think so and are delighted that Labour’s Members’ Bill to extend PPL to six months has been drawn from the ballot.

There’s been a range of views on whether or not it is affordable given high government debt and the need to return to surplus as soon as possible without threatening essential services.

I’ve yet to read or hear anyone questioning the need for PPL at all and whether the cost of children should be a public responsibility.

PPL is a benefit, paid for from taxes. Like ACC it gives more to those who earn more – at least up to $458.82 per week or the equivalent of $23,858 –   but unlike ACC the beneficiaries have not been levied for it.

Unlike any other non-contributory benefit, except superannuation, it isn’t means tested. A woman, or her partner, earning thousands of dollars a week has the same entitlement to PPL as someone on the minimum wage.

Is that right or fair?

I’m not convinced it is on principle and absolutely sure it isn’t in the current economic environment.

I might accept a case if it was means tested. But paying the equivalent of pocket money to high earners when the country is seriously indebted and the only increased spending in this year’s Budget will be for health and education – paid for by savings elsewhere – is a luxury not a necessity.

Lindsay Mitchell argues the economic case against the extension here.

Cactus Kate writes on parental pay madness.

Lucia Maria thinks PPL just grows the state.

* Tutor sister doesn’t exist anymore – that was a senior nurse who taught the junior ones in training hospitals.


The root of the problem

March 12, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell gets to the root of the problem of child abuse:

the incidence of Harm Standard physical abuse was  significantly lower for children living with two married biological  parents compared to children living in all other conditions. An  estimated 1.9 per 1,000 children living with two married biological  parents suffered Harm Standard physical abuse, compared to 5.9 or more  per 1,000 children in other circumstances. In addition, children whose  single parent had an unmarried, live–in partner were at significantly higher risk of Harm Standard physical abuse (19.5 children per 1,000)…

This is not an indictment on everyone whose marriage fails.

Some children will have safer more stable homes with one parent than they had with both.

But that doesn’t change the statistics which show that children with one parent are more likely to be abused and those whose parent has a live-in partner are in even greater danger.

 


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