So John Key’s bright shiny new policy to attract the masses is getting tough on the 1600 16 and 17 year-olds who receive benefits. They can’t vote, so there’s no downside for John. He can grandstand about how they’re spending all their money on booze and ciggies, and how he’ll give them a nice stigmatizing card that will only allow them to buy certain things from certain shops (whether fatty foods will be allowed is as yet uncertain).
Never mind that they aren’t actually allowed to legally buy alcohol and cigarettes at that age anyway. Never mind that you have to prove (to a psychiatrist or similar) a serious disconnect with your parents to get a benefit at that age (or have a child of your own). Never mind that on a $170/week benefit there’s unlikely to be anything left for booze and fags after market rents, power, rates, food etc.
National arrived in power as Labour-lite minus the Nanny State (and change from Helen Clark!). They saved us from the horrors of not being able to buy inefficient incandescent light-bulbs (a change that has brought down the Australian, US and EU economies), and then clearly showed their commitment to their libertarian ideology by banning cellphones when driving.
Now they wish to show how little they want to interfere in people’s lives by micro-managing the budgets of young beneficiaries.
After my highly-critical start, I should make it clear I don’t think that it’s all evil in every word John Key utters. The added support of budgeting and parenting classes would be welcomed by many beneficiaries (and non-beneficiaries!), not just young ones. If you’re going to get by on $170 per week I think anyone would welcome some tips. Similarly having a personal manager (a mentor) would be helpful to have on-call for when tricky problems arise.
The compulsory nature of the classes for a specific group of society makes my liberal heart queasy. Micro-managing budgets, paying their rent and power for them, will not teach them the budgeting skills required. Paying private providers to get them into work will result in youths being pushed into unsuitable jobs – that they’ll get kicked out of after their 90-day trial period – further denting their confidence, but not solving NZ’s youth employment problem (highest rate of youth unemployment in the OECD).
Nine-to-Noon covered it very well this morning, with the very articulate former youth beneficiary Felicity Perry and full-youth-employment Otorohanga’s Mayor Dale Williams. I thoroughly recommend a listen. There’s a great quote from the Mayor along the lines of National “seeing youth as a problem to be suppressed, rather than a resource to channel.” Felicity points out that if you treat them like 10-year-olds, youths are hardly going to feel keen to jump into the adult world. She also says:
“John Key clearly has no idea what it is like out there.”
But the real policy miss of this is that it’s all about 1600 16 & 17 year-olds receiving taxpayers’ money, when there’s 40,000 under 20s wanting jobs that National aren’t creating – and many more under 25.
Most of the 1600 “problem” youngsters that aren’t already in school (many will be), wouldn’t be a problem if National was creating jobs. Instead they’re cutting training, reducing young people’s job chances further – risking a lost generation.
National promised before the 2008 election to improve opportunities for our youth.