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Lindsay Mitchell: Our leaders need to join the right dots

The Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister says:


"We've lifted about 66,000 kids out of poverty in the past few years ..."


What he neglects to add is they have also consigned about 37,000 more to life on a benefit bringing the total to over 209,000.


Robertson continues:


"If we don't have a population that's feeling well, healthy and happy, then they're going to be less productive."


It's a shame he doesn't link the two. New Zealand has long struggled with low productivity. Perhaps that's because there is so much intergenerational welfare dependence?


Early entry into the benefit system is strongly co-related with intergenerational benefit receipt.


MSD's own commissioned analysis found:


The correlation is striking enough to believe that early entry may be a proxy for intergenerational benefit receipt (with the notable exception of teen-aged SLP entrants).


· The evaluation looked specifically at the share of beneficiaries up to age 25 that can be matched to a record of parental benefit receipt - a “benefit match”. We also looked at the extent of their family’s exposure to benefits, during each matched beneficiary’s teenage years (13-18).


· These figures show that inter-generational correlations are very strong – most young clients in the benefit system had some exposure to the benefit system through a parent or guardian.


· Nearly three quarters (74%) of all beneficiaries up to age 25 had a parent on benefit while they were a child, and just over a third (35%) had a parent on benefit throughout their teenage years.


· The greater the family benefit history the longer the client tended to stay on a benefit, particularly for the Jobseeker benefit.


But that was 2015. When National, thanks to Bill English, was serious about understanding and tackling this long-standing problem. A goal of reducing the number of children in benefit-dependent households was set as part of the Better Public Service goals. Real progress had been made seeing a reduction of 61,000 between 2011 and 2017, yet Labour scrapped the goals.


The gains made have been undone. For instance, noting the final item on the above list, the time people stay on a benefit is getting longer again.


And let's not forget the Prime Minister who said:


"...if you ask me why I’m in politics, my answer will be simple: children ...”


But she never ever talks about children on benefits (except when boasting about paying their parents more.) She never acknowledges the evidence that outcomes for poor children on benefits are worse than for poor children with working parents. She certainly steers well away from the subject of intergenerational dependence.


Either she doesn't understand the implications of more children entering the benefit system, or it just doesn't fit with her world view.


If she honestly wanted to make New Zealand the best place in the world to raise children tackling benefit reliance should be her number one priority.




Lindsay Mitchell blogs here

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