Written By: - Date published: 11:14 am, January 22nd, 2019 - 70 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, national, paula bennett, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, welfare - Tags:
National started off the year doing what National does and launched into an attack on beneficiaries. Same old same old.
But at a time when unemployment is low and things are going well it was somewhat predictable. Not to mention cynical.
Simon Bridges kicked things off with this claim:
Good to be back at it kicking off the year this morning. Unemployment’s down, there are plenty of jobs out there, but there’s 11,000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit than this time last year. We predicted this would happen under this Government, because they’re not enforcing the penalties on the books for those who aren’t making a good faith effort to get into a job.
Paula Bennett backed it up and said this on Facebook:
It makes no sense that with unemployment so low and with jobs for the taking there’s literally over 10,000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit than this time last year. The Government’s gone soft. There’s absolutely no reason why we should give up on the expectation that people put serious effort into finding a job.
And clearly there was an attempt to make this the news story of the day.
Simon’s visit to the AM show was reported by Dan Satherley in this way:
Simon Bridges has blamed a rise in the number of Kiwis receiving Jobseeker Support on the Government’s easing of sanctions.
“It’s an outrage,” the National Party leader told The AM Show on Monday. “I warned this would happen – it has.”
Last year the Government told Work and Income case managers to ease up on penalties and sanctions against its clients. In December 8500 sanctions were applied, down from 14,500 the year before, RNZ reported.
Bridges ended with an ominous comment that benefit sanctions would be enforced more rigorously if National regained power.
The reporter, Dad Satherley did something naughty and tried to understand what was actually happening and described the situation in some detail:
Unemployment did drop from a high of 6.7 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent under National, but that obscures a rapid rise in unemployment in the early years of John Key’s Government, as the global financial crisis tore through the New Zealand economy. Unemployment hit a record low 3.3 percent in June 2008, before that year’s general election.
Since the Labour-New Zealand First coalition formed in mid-2017, the official unemployment rate has dropped further to below 4 percent.
The unemployment rate and Jobseeker Support numbers can appear to be heading in different directions because they’re measured differently, and at different times. The Jobseeker Support figure is from the end of December, and is a snapshot in time, while the unemployment rate is measured quarterly and was last updated in November.
“This timing difference is particularly important when there are substantial seasonal rises in unemployment, for example towards the end of December,” according to Statistics NZ.
Ministry of Social Development statistics show a rise in the number of people receiving Jobseeker Support every December, but the rise this most recent December was slightly higher than usual. But it’s fewer than 4000 people more than were receiving the benefit in December 2013, despite record population increases.
Basically there is no crisis, overall the situation has improved significantly since the change of Government, and the number of people on jobseeker always goes up in December. Most importantly there is absolutely no proof of any correlation between people receiving the jobseeker benefit and the less inhumane treatment of people on benefits that this Government is seeking to introduce.
Bridges and Bennett know this, or at least they should do. But beneficiary bashing is one of their most potent weapon, for their base this is the equivalent to talking to lefties about climate change or discrimination.
And as Carmel Sepuloni has pointed out the overall change is minuscule, with the proportion of working age adults on a benefit being 9.9% compared to 9.8% in the December quarter last year.
Expect more of this to happen as National looks to shore up its support. Fear and loathing of beneficiaries is regrettably a potent weapon for right wing politicians.