Written By: - Date published: 9:14 am, January 18th, 2013 - 92 comments
Categories: accountability, benefits, class war, greens, Metiria Turei, paula bennett, unemployment, workers' rights - Tags: social security
Paula Bennett stated yesterday that the numbers of people on benefits had dropped noticeably during the last quarter. However, the figures are presented in such a way as to mask the reality of employment, unemployment, Bennett’s punitive welfare reforms, and the struggles of those living on low incomes.
The number of people on benefits in New Zealand is the lowest it’s been at the end of a December quarter since 2008.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the number of people on benefits decreased by nearly 12,000 in the last twelve months.
“But with 339,095 people on benefit in New Zealand, there is much more work to do.”
“We are very much in a transitional phase with the first stage of Welfare Reform currently being implemented and the second stage yet to begin,” says Mrs Bennett.
“There are 13,600 fewer people on benefit than two years ago which means on average, benefit numbers reduced by 131 every week for the past two years.”
Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, was quick off the mark yesterday, questioning the reality behind the figures, and how they related (or didn’t) to the unemployment statistics.
A fall in the number of unemployment beneficiaries while unemployment itself is rising raises concerns over whether the Government’s punitive welfare changes are preventing kiwis getting the help they really need, the Green Party said today.
The latest benefit numbers show that, while there was a seasonal increase in unemployment numbers, the number of people on the unemployment benefit is down on last year, despite the number of people who are unemployed being up.
“It’s unusual that at the same time that the number of people who are out of work is rising, the number of people getting unemployment benefits is falling,” Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said.
“It would be extremely concerning if many people who need help because they have lost their job are not getting help because of National’s punitive welfare changes.
“The numbers may also indicate growing numbers of families under stress as one partner loses a job, but is ineligible for the benefit because the other is working.
“It’s no surprise the National Government prefers to tout unemployment benefit numbers over the real number of unemployed which the latest figures state is about 175,00
The biggest concern is the numbers who have come off the DPB, as a result of changes Bennett has made, pressuring mothers of young children to get work:
There was a particularly big drop in the number of people on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) at the end of 2012 after the Government introduced work obligations for sole parents with older children.
Invest in NZ has also been looking at the numbers:
Unemployment Benefit numbers increased by 3,000 over the quarter driven by large numbers of students finishing their studies just before summer.
The number of sole parents on the DPB dropped 1.6% over the quarter to 95,138 and 3,221 sole parents went off this benefit into work in that period.
However, not all the sole parents that went off the DPB went into work. According to Claire Trevett on the NZ Herald,
The number of sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit dropped by 5000 last year – a drop Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is attributing partly to her new policy requiring sole parents to get jobs when their youngest child turns five.
Figures released yesterday showed there were 95,138 sole parents on the DPB at the end of 2012 – down from 100,266 the year before.
The figures mix total numbers for the quarter with percentage drops, and other figures show the drop over the year. So it is hard to work out exactly how many sole parents went off the DPB but did not get work. There is also no information about how many went into part time work (which is most likely for sole parents with children), or how much these jobs pay.
As Turei pointed out, it is clear that there is a discrepancy between the official unemployment numbers and those on benefits. This indicates a deterioration in income and living circumstances for many of the people surviving on low incomes, driven by Bennett’s punitive changes to the benefit system. And this negative impact is being masked by a strategic presentation of statistics that don’t make for easy comparisons, while Bennett keeps playing on the widespread construction of DPB recipients as “undeserving poor”.
[Update: RNZ Summer Report on the “welfare numbers” and poverty:
Opposition parties say the latest welfare figures issued by the Government prove people are being forced into poverty…
However, the latest Household Labour Force Survey shows unemployment has risen.
Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg told Summer Report the Government is making it harder for people to receive assistance.
He said says beneficiaries should be encouraged to seek work, but that does not appear to be the case.
And it’s worth listening to the interview at the above link with Rosenberg. He also comments on the controlled release of statistics from the government, which aren’t in a form that people can make sense of.