Maybe it’s the influence of Bill ‘Guess’ English but National has this strange habit of only doing half the sum. Paula Bennett counts people going off the benefit, but not people going on. John Key looks at normal job creation but ignores normal job destruction. Now, he’s claiming that a mother with a 1-year old is better off working, but he’s not counting the costs of working.
Here’s Key justifying making a single mum with a 1 year old work:
They get the minimum family tax credit, which is $22,204 a year, and on top of that they get the in-work tax credit, which is $3,120 a year— all of which adds up to about $25,300 a year for 20 hours. The domestic purposes benefit for that person would be $15,000. That household will be considerably better off.
But we’re missing something here. Something small but important and entirely dependent on the care of an adult.
Oh, right. The baby.
Putting baby in a childcare centre will cost about $7 an hour – $35 a half day while mum goes and works 4 hours plus travel time. WINZ covers half that. So, that’s net $17 a day, or $3,000 a year. Yikes.
And then there’s travel costs. It costs me $7 a day to get to and from work when I take public transport. Many DPB mums won’t have a car and certainly couldn’t pay parking costs. So, let’s put that at $7 a weekday too. $1750 a year.
Then there’s other work-associated costs: clothes, shoes, food. Let’s be real cheap about that and say just $5 a day, $1250 a year.
So, for 1000 hours of work a year and 1250 hours of separation from their baby, we’re talking about net income gain of $4,000 a year. $4 net an hour, is that worth it to separate a mother and baby for half the day? Are they really ‘better off’?
The problem is that, while wages are so low, the net income from working will always be crap, unless the government cuts benefits, which are already subsistence level.
In general, I have no problem with work-testing – if you’re on a work-related benefit, you ought to be looking, as long as you still get the benefit if there’s nothing going, although it’s an incredibly expensive and bureaucratic way to pick up the very small number of actual bludgers. But requiring a mother to leave her baby for $4 an hour just seems like meanness from a government that won’t hesitate to splash out tens of millions on its business buddies.