John Key once described DPB mums as “breeding for a business”. The Nats don’t like beneficiaries in general, and their welfare working group (led by Paula Rebstock) has cooked up a good old fashioned batch of Tory welfare bashing. Fortunately these extreme views have not gone unchallenged in NZ. And now a report from Australia makes a useful contribution to the debate (ht Colonial Viper).
“Beyond Stereotypes: Myths and facts about people of working age who receive social security” is the work of the Australian Council of Social Service. The introductory summary shows that the Australian experience over the last decade follows the same pattern as ours. The number of unemployed, and the number of people on benefits fell in the years to 2008 / 2009, and is now rising again. The report then sets out to challenge three myths about welfare:
Myth 1: The typical unemployed person on income support is a school leaver who could find a job quickly if they searched hard enough
1. The overall proportion of people of working age on unemployment payments rose from 3.6% before the last recession in 1990 to 5.7% a decade later, but then fell by 30% over the 2000s,from 5.7% in 1999 to 4.1% in 20091.
2. The profile of recipients of unemployment payments does not resemble the stereotypical young school leaver. In 2010 only 27% were under 25 years old, 41% were 25‐44 years and 32% were 45 years or older. …
Myth 2: The continuing growth in Disability Support Pension recipients is due to too many ‘older men with bad backs’ being wrongly approved for payment
1. The proportion of people of working age on DSP rose from around 3% in 1990 to 5.5% in 2004, but then stopped rising. It fell slightly between 2004 and 2009.
2. The strongest growth among DSP recipients since the early 1990s has been among women …
Myth 3: A typical sole parent on social security is a teenage mother who relies entirely on income support
1. The proportion of people of working age on Parenting Payment rose from 2.2% in 1990 to 4.5% in 2005, but then fell by around 30% to 3.2% in 2009.
2. The vast majority of Parenting Payment Single recipients (85%) are over 25 years of age. Only 2‐3% are teenagers.
3. Almost one third (31%) of Parenting Payment Single recipients are already employed (mostly in part time jobs) even though most (60%) still have a preschool age child. …
There’s plenty more facts and figures in the report, well worth checking out.
Here in NZ the Ministry of Social Development does produce some excellent publications, including a useful annual Social Report. But, especially in the current climate, it would be nice to see a report that, like the Australian one, directly set out the myths about beneficiaries in NZ, and the hard data that relate to the myths. Although the details will be different in our context of course, I have no doubt that a similar pattern of unjustified myths would be found here. Starting with our PM.