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Summer service: the real economy

Written By: - Date published: 10:45 am, December 14th, 2013 - 47 comments
Categories: activism, benefits, child welfare, democratic participation, poverty, unemployment - Tags:

I don’t give Christmas presents any more.  But I do look for places to gift/donate to or support, at what is a difficult time of year for the people on lowest incomes.  The City Missions are an obvious and worthy place to donate time, money and/or food and other gifts (I’m not a Christian, but support the good work they do).

The summer holiday period is a time when consumerism is rampant, contradicting the traditional Christian message that Christmas allegedly is about.  And it just adds pressure to those already struggling, especially those with young families.

And already the food queues at Auckland City Mission are longer than usual.  Sam Boyer reports in the NZ Herald today (h/t Paul):

Aucklanders are queuing for up to seven hours for food parcels from the City Mission, as donations run thin.

The waits are only expected to get worse as Christmas nears, with needy families arriving at the mission increasingly desperate.

Auckland city missioner Diane Robertson said people were prepared to wait most of the day because they had nowhere else to go.

“The reality is, we’re quite a way off Christmas, and certainly the numbers coming in are huge.

“For some people it is a wait of six or seven hours to receive a Christmas food parcel. I think it will probably get worse.

“What we’re seeing now is what we would usually see in the last few days before Christmas.”

Everyone who received a food parcel was tested by Work and Income at the mission, Ms Robertson said.

“It’s about numbers being large and it’s also about people being desperate.

“Every single person who comes through here has nowhere else to go … people have exhausted every option before they come here. Believe you me, unless you really had to, you wouldn’t do this.

“I’m looking at our numbers and they’re higher than last year. I just think people live in chronic poverty – economic recovery is certainly not touching these people.”

Auckland City Mission staff say people are waiting up to six or seven hours for a food parcel. Photo / Greg Bowker. NZ Herald 14 Dec 2013

Auckland City Mission staff say people are waiting up to six or seven hours for a food parcel. Photo / Greg Bowker. NZ Herald 14 Dec 2013

And, as usual, our government keeps talking up the economy and employment statistics.  Here, Frank Macskasy shows why some of the statistics are misleading: The real level of unemployment:

The HLFS stats appear to put a positive, downward ‘spin’ on New Zealand’s unemployment rates. All good news for the current National-led government that is desperate for good news as it faces an election next year – and probable defeat.

However, on 5 December, Roy Morgan released the shock results of an nationwide poll, showing unemployment as well as  under-employment much higher than the Household Labour Force Survey has been reporting,

[…]

“New Zealand unemployment was 8.5% (down 0.3% since the June Quarter 2013) of the 2,629,000 in the NZ workforce – an estimated 223,000 (down 5,000) were unemployed and looking for work.

[…]

The latest Roy Morgan unemployment estimate of 8.5% is now 2.3% above the 6.2% currently quoted by Statistics New Zealand for the September Quarter 2013. 

[…]

The Census [2013] survey not only revealed that unemployment is much higher than the HLFS (7.1%, instead of 6.2%), but that youth unemployment was 18.4% – an increase from  the 2006 Census result of 13.3%.

Places that could do with some more support:

Auckland City Mission

Wellington City Mission

Hamilton Mission Services

Christchurch City Mission

NZ Women’s Refuges

Auckland Action Against Poverty

Child Poverty Action Group

I will add further suggestions from commenters

47 comments on “Summer service: the real economy”

  1. Ad 1

    Great time to hire students for work around the house.
    There’s tonnes of them – young and fit, and going for $20 per hour cash.
    Sure donate. But spend more hiring and motivating.

    • karol 1.1

      Sure. Hiring young people is good. Cash for doing odd jobs? Not a long term solution either.

      But there also needs to be policy and structural changes to enable young people to get into good jobs, with a future. More incentives to employers to hire young people. Improved, pro-worker employment regulations. More apprenticeships, training opportunities, etc.

      Motivation: is why I included Child Poverty Action, Auckland Action Against Poverty & Women’s Refuges – it’s about motivating people to participate in actions for change.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Thanks for posting this karol. Your messages are very important.

        But there also needs to be policy and structural changes to enable young people to get into good jobs, with a future. More incentives to employers to hire young people. Improved, pro-worker employment regulations. More apprenticeships, training opportunities, etc.

        Simply declare a full employment and training policy for those 25 years and under.

        Work on the detail after that, which will include many of the proposals you suggest here.

        Important – there can’t just be training for trades and jobs. Actual full time employment must be guaranteed at the end of that training.

        This would be a $1B p.a. programme.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          Simply declare a full employment and training policy for those 25 years and under.

          Work on the detail after that, which will include many of the proposals you suggest here.

          Important – there can’t just be training for trades and jobs. Actual full time employment must be guaranteed at the end of that training.

          This would be a $1B p.a. programme.

          I left school in the mid 80s and went onto a PEP scheme as the wave of unemployment was rising. Since then have seen many initiatives around finding and creating employment, and not much that seems very smart. So forgive me, but I think the detail needs to be upfront. Not the minutiae, but some kind of blueprint of how these jobs would be created.

          How do you guarantee full-time work? What if some people want less then full-time work? Is the $1B an ongoing govt subsidy, or is that what it costs to get others to create sustainable work?

          These things need to be fleshed out, otherwise it’s just us sitting on the internet theorising.

          • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1.1

            Yes that detail certainly needs to be fleshed out comprehensively.

            After commiting to the principle of full employment and training for 25’s and under.

            So forgive me, but I think the detail needs to be upfront. Not the minutiae, but some kind of blueprint of how these jobs would be created.

            You identify the things in society which could be improved and you spend the money. It’s not difficult. Why does the Left want to complicate things?

            Whether its conservation and environmental work in the field, more teachers and smaller class sizes, paid gigs for fine arts, culture and performance, more healthcare workers for under-resourced hospitals and care homes, counselling/support/social workers etc. coming up with 20,000 or 30,000 jobs is not going to be hard.

            Oh yeah, someone said we should build a mountain of state houses too. So that’s another 10,000 new jobs total.

            Plus there will be a tonne of jobs around supervision, audit and compliance to ensure that work is carried out to top specifications.

            Is the $1B an ongoing govt subsidy, or is that what it costs to get others to create sustainable work?

            I imagine most of that will be government spent, but in a way which generates real money velocity in communities. As the discretionary incomes of communities increase, the private sector will get into the act too.

            • McFlock 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes that detail certainly needs to be fleshed out comprehensively.

              After commiting to the principle of full employment and training for 25′s and under.

              By that measure the nats would already say they’ve achieved it.

          • Macro 1.1.1.1.2

            ” So forgive me, but I think the detail needs to be upfront. Not the minutiae, but some kind of blueprint of how these jobs would be created.”

            A very good question weka. You say you began work in the mid 80’s – just at the time that NZ begun its unfortunate experiment. One of the very first moves was to open up our borders to cheap goods. This was seen at the time as a wonderful idea – new and varied goods flooded in to the country to be snatched up by a need it now populace. Consumerism in its most blatant guise had arrived and was here to stay. Unfortunately what the general populace did not understand, was in their greed for more and cheaper goods, they were infact exporting their jobs overseas. Some new work was created, but never enough to replace the thousands of jobs that were lost to overseas workers. The import quotas that had been in force since Mickey Savage, protected NZers from the cheap labour regimes overseas. Exacerbating,this was the Russian Perestroika, which lead to a momentous expansion of cheap labour in Europe. Following on from this was the “capitalisation” of the Chinese economy. These two major world wide events have ensured that it impossible for NZ manufactures to compete, particularly when our political leaders from both Labour and National have been rushing to see which can sign us up to the most “Free Trade” agreements which never a thought for the resulting ability of our country to sustain itself in the event of a world crisis.
            Thirty years ago, NZ could manufacture (from imported raw materials admittedly) almost all of its needs. Today all that has been lost and we have a workforce looking for work, which will never be there, as long as we choose to continue to import all our goods.

      • Ad 1.1.2

        Sorry I missed your structural solution in your post.

        The best motivation people who have nothing can have, is to be taken in and given the opportunity to see the relationship between work and reward, not only in the mechanistic sense, but also in the sense of someone taking the time to care, form a relationship, and get to work.

        Cash under the table is also a whole lot more efficient distribution than any charity you could name.

        • karol 1.1.2.1

          Ad. I didn’t put forward proposals for a structural solution in my post.

          I do think it’s good it’s good to employ young people. But I think employing young people for odd jobs is not much of an improvement on the kinds of support I included in the post.

          Not all the people in need of support are unemployed and/or have the capability to work.

          • weka 1.1.2.1.1

            “But I think employing young people for odd jobs is not much of an improvement on the kinds of support I included in the post.”

            On it’s own, I agree. But cash work odd jobs are important aspects of local communities. I know many people who top up their income this way to make it liveable who would be unable to do so via a full time job. As someone with a disability I am reliant on people willing to do odd jobs – in fact the more people that are available to do that the easier my life becomes. Again, those people are often not wanting or able to take full time employment.

            There are also huge issues for beneficiaries and the abatement rates, whereby odd jobs and cash jobs are lifesavers.

            This is a complex situation, so let’s not denigrate cash or ad hoc work.

            edit, just seen RT’s comment :-)

            • Rogue Trooper 1.1.2.1.1.1

              the abatement equates to a taxation of the income earned of approximately 70%; benefit drops, HNZ rent increases; This has always been a significant structural flaw in the Income Support system in my lifetime, yet counsellors advise people re-entering mainstream functioning to expect an income composed of part-time employment and MSD support; is not realistic at all. I used to fellowship with a chappie who worked as a cleaner in a rest-home, but never with enough hours provided to leave the benefit, accommodation support mechanisms; the constant reconciling with WINZ and shortfalls in his weekly income was a significant source of stress for him.

              • Arfamo

                That seems to be a reality for a lot of people working as caregivers too. One of the most valuable and yet most abused roles in our society.

                • weka

                  It’s also the reason why care agencies (personal cares and homehelp) can’t get enough staff in some areas. They pay shit wages, but won’t give permanent full-time work to workers who are currently on a benefit, so the benerficiary is better off keeping their hours low or just not taking the work that is variable in hours each week.

                  (the other issue is that state funded clients are split over too many agencies. If these were consolidated, there would be more full time jobs instead of many part time positions unable to be filled).

                  The WINZ abatement issue is one I’ve yet to see a proposed solution to from the left (apart from a UBI).

              • greywarbler

                RT
                You make an important point here.
                the constant reconciling with WINZ and shortfalls in his weekly income was a significant source of stress for him.
                winz is so anxious and alert to give the bene the minimum they can get away with that the idea you are earning money yourself sends them into a feeding frenzy. They are going to feed on bonuses from reducing their budgets, while you may be feeding less because of the frenzied reaction of reductions from them. And these diminishments on your previous total benefit are calculated on the gross amount that you earn, not the net amount you receive in your hand which provides your living expenses. So the government takes its bite of tax out of your wages, and it reduces your benefit on a pre-tax basis, so getting two bites from your extra income little that it often is. And additionally, they give no allowance to help with the extra costs incurred just getting to job.

                This has been the long term attitude to beneficiaries. The government doesn’t want to support enterprise and effort of beneficiaries to assist people to have a decent living, with a little help from government. That is not their aim, it is to grind you down, punish you, deny you help that theoretically a socially advanced, intelligent country would provide. It has been mean and stupid and lacked effectiveness for these reasons for years, and Labour has not made significant changes in this process, this structure. I was terribly disappointed that Steve Maharey wasn’t strong enough or wide-thining enough to send a tsunami through the system and get it working in a way that supported and promoted benes skills and capabilities successfully in giving them confidence in their abilties. And to recognise their duties and responsibilities (such as bringing up children and other supporitive social activities or their own impairments.)

                • Rogue Trooper

                  having read some of Steve Maharey’s op-eds and the odd interview, I’m not surprised.
                  It is possible that beneficiaries are seen as natural fodder for mill, particularly through the application of distorted moralising propaganda.
                  I read a quote yesterday along the lines of “The function of a propagandist is to convince one set of the population that another set of the population are not human “.(led to some reflection, I can tell you) Irony is, while the right champion ‘rationalism’, they employ emotive leverage. They present as unworthy opponents; ref WOBH (and his colleagues who comment here).

                  • Colonial Viper

                    And to convince the masses that it is righteous that a small, easily villified, disempowered part of the population is being picked on, little understanding that over the course of time, they are likely to be next.

            • karol 1.1.2.1.1.2

              I agree with the importance of cash jobs for many people. I’m not wanting to put that down.

              Nor am I a supporter of charity as a solution to poverty and income inequality – my solutions are more policy based as indicated in my post yesterday on the party I would vote for.

              But under that post and here, ad seems to always favour market-based solutions over all else – get all those on benefits to work one way or another. Employment, even if the financial rewards are small, is a very important solution for many, but not all those in poverty.

              This post is focused totally on the stresses on the summer holiday period. My advocacy for supporting charities is meant as a short term alternative to the kinds of gifting most prevalent at this time of year – most of it seems to involve re-distribution of material goods among the already haves – things many don’t really need.

              • Rogue Trooper

                and New Zealand tops the international statistics for re-gifting apparently; one has to ask the question, if the gift is not well-matched to the receiver, who was it actually purchased and given for.

        • Rogue Trooper 1.1.2.2

          you subversive you. :-D

  2. Rogue Trooper 2

    was gratefully employed in such a way, gardening, yesterday (the Spirit moves and all that); sure is hot though out in that sun; wonder when the burn time is .

    Intend to place a small gift under the tree at K-Mart

    • weka 2.2

      Got a good hat and a long sleeve shirt with a collar RT? ;-)

      • Rogue Trooper 2.2.1

        beaten straw hat, short-sleeve shirts with collars. Yellow helium-filled balloons, symbolising those young people left out of the “brighter future”, were released together; amazing how high such balloons reach and and yet remain visible, resembled small stars in the Blue sky. Like all matter, organic or other, there is always potential.
        Retail district still spoke a tale of two cities, sadly , significantly along ethnic lines.

        Meka Whaitiri spoke, blending in with the Homai te pakipaki chap who stood for Mana, about her reflections on Hastings; very relevant.

  3. clifford wright 3

    Even more concerning to me. There are signs locally that the supply to food banks is drying up as compared with last year.
    Our local “Countdown” had a trolley set up for food donations. I put something in each time I shopped.
    But some of the things I had donated were still in a half empty trolley after 3 days.
    I think that a lot of people are getting to the stage where they have little or no surplus themselves.

    Also, I do have the reservation that some of my donations are effectively subsidising bad, low paying employers.
    Interesting on the referendum. I voted NO even though we bought some Mighty River shares.
    So far we have lost several hundred dollars!!!!!
    So much for keeping the shares in NZ hands.
    crite40

  4. The Baron 4

    My word karol, is there any parade you don’t like raining all over with this tedious overanalysis?

    • Arfamo 4.1

      Why not just sue whoever it is that’s forcing you to read it?

    • karol 4.2

      Which parades are you thinking of, Mr Aristocrat?

      The aim of my post was just the opposite – to shine a little sunlight on the lives of people who are struggling in bleak circumstances.

  5. Ad 5

    People who propose replacing Christmas presents with donating to charity have difficulty with the concept of childhood, and probably don’t deal with children anywhere near Christmas. Otherise they would leave their preachy ideals at the mall car park’s self-opening doors.

    Sure today’s a bit different to what Christ and family went through. Let’s accept that.

    Let’s also accept it’s important to donate around Christmas when every welfare agency under the sun is getting its shelves raided and volunteer hours heroically deployed.

    But let’s do the world a favor and give the children around us a good time. Where we can. Without going overboard bla-moralistic-bla. Show them they can wish for something and celebrate being together in full Norman Rockwell display, Potlatch our socks away, get shitfaced, argue with the ex about custody, and fall asleep drunk watching the cricket.

    On Boxing Day, take everything you didn’t really need over to the Salvation Army. Feel magnanimous and sneaky at the same time. There will be a German word for that.

    Anyone on this site who wants to give a goat for Christmas, hey it’s fun. But don’t go telling 11 year old Tristan that some little dude in Calcutta stole his present this year as a result. Go out and buy something he wants.

    • Rogue Trooper 5.1

      German has great words; personally, was reflecting mowing the lawn (sigh) that Christmas has always been most motivating for me, thanks to the efforts both my parents made when I was a child; It was certainly always the most memorable and comparatively nurturing part of my childhood; I continuously used those memories to rationalize some of the incidents through each preceding year; serendipitously, it happened again, while in town I ‘noticed’ some-body the law prohibits me from and wished them well for Christmas; the irony? They used to assert “you’ll never change him “; interesting to see who eventually picks up the generativity baton though; we all need more than just a kitchen and bathroom refurbishing.

      • Ad 5.1.1

        It’s about time your story got told properly.

        • Rogue Trooper 5.1.1.1

          submitted a comprehensive affidivit (never ever forget those emotion-based learnings , have K.T Strongman’s The Psychology of Emotion 3rd Edition to hand) to the family court; they spent a couple of grand with an experienced conservative lawyer, I had an average duty solicitor chap who wanted the business even though a partner of his firm was concerned they didn’t have the resources, von Daldezen threw out the affidavit, I buried the hatchet for my own rest. There is nothing there except the soil that led to this. It is very common that abuser’s will never understand, socialized into them, no intrinsic motivation for change. Been interesting though, in light of the ‘nature / nurture’ chestnut; must have been the Balm, and Angela’s Ashes it was not. Made a Highway connection to another connection from the same club yesterday; he is 30 and reminded me of my youngest brother, who seems to have made more HA ‘friends’ in his late thirties than I’ve met well ‘christians’. (i.e: a lot). And here we arrive.

    • weka 5.2

      Not just the kids. The years my siblings gave charity gifts overseas and sent me the card to prove it as my Christmas present, was like rubbing salt in the wound. They’re all upper middle class, I’m part of the permanent underlcass with some kind of foothold still in middleclassdom that allows me to expect presents that have meaning for me. It hurt despite my best efforts to be pleased for the dude who got the goat. There is enough wealth in my family, and in NZ, for everyone here to have a decent enough Christmas and to donate overseas.

      For me it’s not about financial poverty, but Christmas is a stark reminder of how isolated I am in my community because I live away from my family of origin and I don’t have a partner and/or kids. That’s not a huge one for some, but I wonder how many people in that situation who are also struggling in their lives in various ways are just waiting until Christmas is over. I loathe this time of year, not least because of how much I have to pretend so that I don’t get accused of “raining on the parade” as someone so compassionately put it above. Am already tensing for the first rounds of “what are you doing for Christmas?”, as if everyone automatically has the option of doing something.

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.1

        My thoughts are with you weka. I envison a nation quietly starving in body and soul, stuck on the ‘outer’ while a relative few get to feast up in style, on the ‘inside.’ And occasionally someone at the banquet table is considerate enough to wave and smile at you as you press your nose up to the cold glass windows, looking in at them.

      • greywarbler 5.2.2

        I recognise some of your situation weka. Warm thoughts to you at Christmas. Something nice will happen I am sure, and I hope you have a few small treats for yourself and perhaps a couple for those around who are good value. I got a free Lindt chocolate at the supermarket the other day. Which was nice.

        The upper middle, lower upper class have eyes turned upwards to expected further prosperity and outwards to overseas trips, new cars, clothes, bricabrac, curtains, clothes, clever toys, fine food etc. They don’t care to understand that everyone doesn’t have the same resources, even family.

        If they did, they would envy you, saying they find it a burden to spend all the conspicuous consumption on themselves that they feel bound to make. Along with giving to the poor overseas which is always more picturesque than local hard-up-ness. Which is merely unsatisfactory and disappointing because those affected by an income that doesn’t last a whole week, have failed to achieve the level of prosperity almost all NZs enjoy! Hah!

    • karol 5.3

      I am all for making Christmas memorable for all children. Some fun. Some surprises, a little gift here and there.

      And yes, the children in my Whanau are all grown now & have good jobs. So no need for any presents. I gave them presents when they were young. I didn’t say don’t give any presents.

      But I also don’t enjoy the consumerist excess that comes with the holiday period these days.

  6. greywarbler 6

    “For some people it is a wait of six or seven hours to receive a Christmas food parcel. I think it will probably get worse.
    “What we’re seeing now is what we would usually see in the last few days before Christmas.”
    Everyone who received a food parcel was tested by Work and Income at the mission, Ms Robertson said.
    “It’s about numbers being large and it’s also about people being desperate.

    The government has set itself up as a a gatekeeper and barrier to people getting charitable help for food. Gummint stopped some time ago actually being present for those in need, and giving them a voucher for supermarkets. I think now it gives them a voucher to a charitable concern with little monetary input to them from government. Charities used to serve a small number that fell outside the scope of government aid but now they feel the weight of government lack of citizen support. The system has been accepted by charities because they have been inundated with people that the government has lost interest in since they went free market and can buy their baubles cheaper from overseas, rather than made in NZ by the good workers of what was a good country. And then there are apparently mandatory budgeting courses, these are no doubt useful to get priorities with budget making experience but charities point out that how little room for change most people have.

    But now where is the charity that people can get help from without going through the time-consuming humiliation of telling their tale of woe to some blank-faced brutalised production-line government clerk? The church I used to go to at one time created a larder with weekly gifts of tinned foods from the congregation which was available to an advocate agency when they had dealings with short-term needy people. But whether that is being widely done I don’t know.

    • Rogue Trooper 6.1

      yes, there is a Kai Collective locally that collects and distributes food, even surplus retail food, and re-distributes it. Ha!, another of my ‘formative’ political experiences, the fact that the Supermarket required that sub-standard produce (bearing in mind the number of days one is required to ‘trim’ a lettuce) be dumped, and it was an employment offence to take any of that food, compounded with the driving down effect on income from market-gardeners and the up-to 500% mark-up on some items (imported grapes for example).

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.1

        During the Great Depression when people were starving and farmers could not find buyers for their crops, they often just burnt them.

        • Rogue Trooper 6.1.1.1

          naked capitalism, don’t ya just love it. I read of some success for the left in Italy, a Franciscan coincidence along with The Armageddon Factor ; the thesis stands as long the observations support it, , and the Right seem too busy defending to falsify.(i.e They throw sh*t-loads of money at their narratives, not a coincidence :-D ).

        • greywarbler 6.1.1.2

          Sometimes CV no-one who is needy can be found and transported to the site where the produce is. Sometimes the individual that has the goodwill to make it available and assist with the gathering and carrying cannot get enough assistance from organisations with resources, so as to implement and oversee the whole task.

          Being in a state of readiness with knowledge of how to connect with easily obtained resources is rare, even for financed bodies with the task of providing for emergencies. Knowing when procedures and equipment and people are, or not, likely to be readily available at any given time would be part of a practical, responsible service-oriented local or national authority.

          • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.2.1

            I understand your point re: logistics and limitations of connecting need with supply. Sometimes it is the case – but sometimes it is not.

            All around Ireland, USA, there are many homeless people, right now.

            Yet they are demolishing good (although foreclosed) homes and apartments, in order to try and boost house prices by reducing supply of housing.

            Our economic system is insane.

            • greywarbler 6.1.1.2.1.1

              CV
              I have just been watching Prof Richard Wolff. New to me probably not to you. But I have put some links in Open Mike today if you want to catch him as he is saying stuff about how they’re handling things in USA, they aren’t, and in general is full of Marxist based theory that sounds sound and convincing and food for thought.

              And you mentioned farmers burning crops. They individually didn’t have the means to do anything other than manage their own situation though that was regrettable. What is bad is that in tough times there isn’t a Comptroller of Resources for the People or something. (A rose by any other name would do as well.) Just someone who tried to ensure food got to people, and prevent waste and find efficient means of distributing stuff, especially perishable food.

  7. Philj 7

    Xox
    The John Key National removal fund. Give generously.

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