So we allegedly have a “rockstar economy” with NZ’s economy coming out of the recession and everything looking pretty rosy? Well, that’s the NAct news that too often gets repeated by journalists in the mainstream media (MSM). So let’s hear it for another chorus of “there is no depression in New Zealand”.”
Indeed! If you look a bit closer, at the actual lives of people on the lowest incomes, as told by those who know them. Budgeting and other organisations providing support where they can, provide a picture that is far from rosy. Some of this does get reported in the MSM – but it’s too often buried amidst all the bread and circuses, smoke and mirrors of the MSM.
Here’s a couple of the stories from the last week. A Demographia survey finds that too many Kiwis are unable to afford adequate amounts of food, putting them in “absolute” poverty. Simon Collins (who very often does excellent articles on social security and other social issues) reports today in the NZ Herald:
A global survey has found that one in every six Kiwis ran out of money for food in 2011-12 – more than in all except eight other developed nations.
The shock finding contrasts with other data in an annual survey by the Paris-based OECD that put New Zealand near the top of the 34 developed countries on social indicators such as people’s perceived health status and employment rates, and above average on relative poverty.
But experts said the key finding on food money reflected genuine “absolute” poverty caused by NZ’s low real incomes and high housing costs.
Collins reports on NZ agencies that confirm there is no let up in those seeking help for problems caused by poverty: Child Poverty Action, Auckland City Mission, the Salvation Army, South Auckland Christian foodbank.
And the Demographia findings are supported by data from NZ’s Household Survey, although the later shows some easing over the last year – the measure indicates poverty rose under the current government, but is now returning to pre 2007 levels – levels that still indicate high levels of poverty:
The NZ figure matches Statistics NZ’s annual household economic survey which asks people if they have not enough, just enough, enough or more than enough money to meet “everyday needs for such things as accommodation, food, clothing and other necessities”. Those who said “not enough” rose from 16.2 per cent in 2007 to 18.5 per cent in 2010, but fell to 17.6 per cent in 2011, 16.6 per cent in 2012 and 14 per cent last year.
Nevertheless, the government is continuing its war on the poor, with a report today of the removal of funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation. Adam Bennett quotes Trevor Mallard on the reasons for the removal of the funding, as posted by Polity, and re-posted on The Standard.
Maori and Pacific communities are over represented in low income statistics and related issues. Simon Collins’ article yesterday is the final part of the NZ Herald’s 4 part series on closing the (ethnic) gaps. However, the article does present some smoke and mirrors with its framing. It begins saying intermarriage is causing ethnic gaps to close.
The second half of the article then reports that, in fact, ethnic gaps are not closing as indicated by socioeconomic measures.
This series has [...]
also found that on the economic measures of income, employment and welfare dependency, people whose ethnicities include Maori and Pacific have done consistently worse than Europeans and Asians.
In fact the employment and welfare gaps between Maori and Europeans in particular have widened, as the equalising forces in health and education have been trumped by more powerful forces worsening economic inequality: globalisation, deunionisation, tax and welfare changes, and technological shifts that have lifted demand for skilled workers and reduced demand for the unskilled.
Today’s final batch of figures shows that this widening inequality translates into a measurably worsening quality of life for Maori in particular, and for Pacific people too on some measures.
Collins then focuses on the prison stats, showing that Maori men are over-represented in the prison population. He states that this reflects discrimination by police and the judiciary systems, as well as inequalities in income, employment and education. This becomes a vicious cycle with many Maori (and to a lesser extent) Pacific women left to look after households and children alone while the men are in prison.
So there you have it – to repeat Collins’ statement about the powerful underlying pressures that are maintaining ethnic inequalities:
powerful forces worsening economic inequality: globalisation, deunionisation, tax and welfare changes, and technological shifts that have lifted demand for skilled workers and reduced demand for the unskilled.
This is the sort of reporting that should be foregrounded more in the MSM, rather than buried in places within articles that too few people attend to. These are powerful forces that have real impacts on real people: things that can be (at least partly) be countered by a truly left wing government.