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The working poor

Written By: - Date published: 9:13 am, September 13th, 2014 - 45 comments
Categories: jobs, poverty - Tags: , , , ,

National is not interested in doing anything about poverty in NZ. They won’t even officially measure poverty, because they don’t want to know. The fig leaf that they hide their indifference behind is “work”. Poor people just need to get off the benefit. They just need to try harder.

There are two problems with this nonsense. The first is the lack of jobs, which is pretty self explanatory.

The second problem is that having a job doesn’t necessarily fix poverty. Welcome to the rise of the working poor:

Working poor at ‘crisis’ point

Hundreds of Auckland families are in a state of crisis with the rate of suburban homelessness rapidly increasing, a spokesperson for a homeless aid group says.

Around 15,000 people in Auckland are believed to be sleeping rough in overcrowded garages or couch surfing.

Danielle Bergin from the Island Child Charitable Trust says that many of the working poor are finding it difficult to secure accommodation, especially after they’ve had to give up rental properties.

According to the Ministry of Social Development (see Key Findings doc):

Poverty rates for children in working families are on average much lower than for those in beneficiary families (11% and 75% respectively), but 2 out of 5 poor children come from families where at least one adult is in full-time work or is self-employed. This is an OECD-wide issue – the working poor.

John Key got this completely wrong in the most recent leaders’ debate:

John Key mistaken on extent of child poverty

Press Release: Child Poverty Action Group

David Cunliffe’s figures were correct. 100,000 children experiencing poverty are in working families – that is 40% of all poor children. John Key has muddled two figures which mean very different things to justify his narrow view that work is the only way out of poverty. While poverty rates for working families are lower overall, it is clear that for families in low-paid work their income is not enough to lift them out of poverty so they can provide adequately for their children.

Key was either wrong or lying. In the end perhaps it doesn’t really matter which, because help for those in poverty simply isn’t on National’s agenda. They are entitled to their views of course, but they shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the fig leaf of work as a solution to poverty any more. The rise of the working poor has destroyed that argument.

45 comments on “The working poor”

  1. Paul 1

    Nigel Latta highlighted the issue of the working poor when he spoke to a couple Talasia and Sio in his programme The New Haves And Have Nots.

    Hopefully a lot of voters saw it and were moved to think beyond their own selfish needs.
    What is more important for New Zealand’s upper middle class…the eradication of poverty or tax cuts?

    http://tvnz.co.nz/nigel-latta/s1-ep4-video-6025283

  2. unsol 2

    “National is not interested in doing anything about poverty in NZ”

    Emotive generalisations never constitute a winning argument.

    Far better to argue the facts. Everyone knows that real wage relative to real cost of living got completely out of whack between 1999-2008 & was exacerbated by the GFC.

    No politician acknowledges WFF & 20 free hours childcare is a farce & merely encourages people to have families they simply can’t afford; no one talks about about 3 kids is the new 2 kids & the impact this has on families finances.

    Key was wrong in terms of using accurate data in the wrong context. He wasn’t lying:

    2014 Household Incomes Report – Key Findings

    [deleted]

    [lprent: We’re interested in what you say. Not what a linkable report says.

    Dumping a document into the comment stream that can be linked to is not permitted. I’ve linked to it for you.

    If you wanted to highlight particular parts of the findings then link to the report and quote the bits you want to highlight and explain why they’re crucial. As it was I couldn’t pick out of the 46 findings which one(s) you wanted to highlight. ]

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Emotive generalisations never constitute a winning argument.

      That wasn’t an emotive generalisation – it was a statement of fact.

  3. Rlch 3

    I suspect that they are prepared to do something about poverty, they’re prepared to use it as part of their arsenal.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Greater poverty means higher profits (due to employers being able to force wages down) in the short term and National never think about the long term.

  4. Marie 4

    In Auckland. Just Auckland. Yes those figures are high and I wouldn’t wish anyone to be in that situation, but this is just speaking for Auckland. I know it’s easier said than done, but why don’t they try find accommodation elsewhere, as in, out of Auckland? Especially if you’re in competition with thousands of other homeless people. I find Auckland is getting overcrowded, and having grown up in Auckland my whole life, at 25 years of age I can’t wait to move further south, somewhere like Pokeno. I don’t feel that lack of accommodation is entirely the governments fault, but more so because too many people want to live and stay in Auckland.

    Furthermore, how do you define ‘poverty’ anyway? – “Someone who lacks material possessions or money..” The material possessions also include the ‘essentials of life’ as in TVs etc, anything that any other household would have. But this does not create poverty. In my view, poverty is lack of food, shelter and clothing etc. Yes I realise this post is about the poor families who are ‘homeless’ and without shelter, but they are only homeless due to lack of accommodation, not because they can’t afford to/get the support to live in a home.
    The number of those in poverty has not changed a great deal, but more so the birth rate has.. So in simpler terms, those living in poverty are having more children, which is really what is driving poverty.

    Aside from this, if the living wage does come in, how much will it solve all this poverty? There needs to be more that comes along with it, such as budgeting classes, and learning how to shop for proper food – but this too would be added costs.
    At the end of the day it won’t affect poverty rates, because poverty is measured as a percentage of the average income. If everyone got a 100% pay rise, the number of those classed as living in poverty will still be the same.

    • Rich 4.1

      Poverty is of course the fault of the poor. It can’t be that we have anything to do with it. And maybe we should start castrating them? /sarc

      • Marie 4.1.1

        Yeah, Rich.. Why not! 🙂

        • Rich 4.1.1.1

          Well why bother with the food classes then, just starve them. /sarc 🙄

          • Marie 4.1.1.1.1

            Haha. Well they wont starve but they may not be looking after themselves as well as they could be, or spending their money on cheaper foods! 🙂 Thanks for your ideas though, Rich! haha

            • Rich 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Here’s another idea. Arm them, so that they can get back what has been stolen from them. How does that sound? 💡

              • Marie

                What can I say.. You’re on a roll with those ideas!!

                • Rich

                  Of course it might not stop there, we could also look at the distribution of capital generally, who controls it, what are the historical circumstances that led to that control and why are they such selfish bastards. And why don’t they pay their internet warriors more money. That last one should get you on side at least. 😆

    • Foreign waka 4.2

      I belief that you may lack experience to understand what poverty really is. Essentially, costs outstrip income and this is the reality for many families. You seem to assume that everybody is the same; educational, support structure, community. This is not so. Many are “wandering” and going to the places where the work is. Far too many are paid on or even below minimum rates and with a family this means working more than 1 job. Go out into the community and mingle, not with the students flatting, with families in farmers markets or in streets you may not otherwise visit. It will be an eye opener. Poverty is relative, that is correct. But hunger is hunger and no amount of statistics will alter that.
      As for the living wage, it is in the heart of the political argument of the deserving vs undeserving. For those who were lucky, industrious and or both, the motion is based on the fear to loose it all and join the ranks of the ones they deem undeserving. I don’t say that all are the same, there are people out there who make you belief in humanity. But by and large the ones who have more than they will spend in 10 lifetimes will not let go as fear and greed is stronger than compassion. I hope that you will never be at the receiving end where a family has to survive on a few $ a day – literally.

      • Marie 4.2.1

        I’m guessing this is in response to my comment? If so, thanks. Yes its true that I lack experience in understanding what poverty is. I have seen it around me and heard about it from my parents, but I have not lived it. One thing I don’t lack is compassion. I am not trying to discredit those who are in true poverty and are living off very little per day, and I am not trying to say their fight is invalid or that their opinions or struggle do not matter. I also never wish to offend anyone by my comments, and I am not making assumptions.

        I was sharing my general views on poverty and what we loosely class as poverty today, and I was also replying to this particular article about the definition of poverty. I also don’t feel that the 15,000 homeless people in Auckland is an adequate example of poverty, because they are homeless due to lack of housing, yet they still have shelter for the time being. To them I would suggest seeking elsewhere for more affordable housing where you aren’t competing with thousands of other people. I don’t feel that this is the governments fault.

        I realise my ‘suggestions’ are easier said than done, and I’m not speaking from experience as I said, but I’m just saying ‘from my point of view, I see things this way..’ And I wish those families all the help in the world who seek it. I also wish I could do more to help them out as well, and since posting this have been inspired to look into doing so. So thanks for your comment 🙂

        • Foreign waka 4.2.1.1

          Hi Marie, nice to see your response. Please don’t misinterpret this but there are examples in history and today what poverty means and how it affects the people who are. Poverty is a political tool you must understand, a tool that is being used to make people compliant on both sides of the fence.

          This is what Nelson Mandela said:
          “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

          cheers 🙂

          • Marie 4.2.1.1.1

            Thanks again, great comment by Nelson Mandela.
            Thanks so much for your time and I appreciate your comments and I guess further educating me on something I do not have a great understanding of. I just feel that there are greater examples of poverty in NZ that can be talked about in the media, not to exploit these families but to draw attention to where there is a need and also of those families who seek help and want to do all they can to help themselves. It all comes down to how the media want to portray families in ‘poverty’ to those of us who have little understanding of what it is to live in those circumstances, and I feel like can make all the difference.

            • Foreign waka 4.2.1.1.1.1

              Great comment, and yes the media is exploiting certain angles. As I mentioned before, its politics and only every heard of at election time.

    • Molly 4.3

      Household Economic Survey – is limited to 5,000 non-transient households. Scarely a good indicator of what is going on.

    • sabine 4.4

      They live in Auckland because they hope for a better chance of finding a job.

      No good finding an affordable rental in North Land but not finding a Job there to earn the money to pay rent.

      Quite a few people would leave Auckland in a heart beat inclusive myself if we could secure stable/safe jobs elsewhere….alas we cant.

      however, If you know about a somewhere else where jobs are plenty and rent is cheap let us know.

      • Rich 4.4.1

        I know somewhere where rent is cheap.

        And I know somewhere where jobs are plenty.

        Alas I know of nowhere where they sit together. Apparently the National Party is working on this one though, by getting prisoners to work. Alas again the wages will be a little on the low side.

        • Colonial Viper 4.4.1.1

          It would be funny, if it wasn’t so painful. And around 44% of people are going to vote for these arseholes again.

    • Murray Olsen 4.5

      What a confused mess of contradictions and misinformation.

      “Yes I realise this post is about the poor families who are ‘homeless’ and without shelter, but they are only homeless due to lack of accommodation, not because they can’t afford to/get the support to live in a home.”

      WTF? Do you know how many houses are vacant, especially state houses?

      “The number of those in poverty has not changed a great deal, but more so the birth rate has.. So in simpler terms, those living in poverty are having more children, which is really what is driving poverty.”

      That doesn’t make any sense at all. You might just be the first person on here more affected by drugs than Mr. Ure.

  5. Usol people don’t have time to read your epistle. Keep it punchy. this type of forum is not conducive to long winded posts ( just use references to expand on a point) Be good to see some rationale debate on poverty from the left beyond the bullying tactic and tired old line ‘”you don’t agree with our prescription, so you don’t care ”

    National and labour both care, labour attack poverty by focussing on symptoms ie give the man a fish, ( or a house, or money, basically redistribution) national in turn want to focus on underlying cause, ie give a man a fishing rod, break the cycle hence welfare reform, charter schools, Whane Ora, preventing teen pregnancies etc . Thus the competing narrative is not that one side cares more than the other, simply what is the best way to address the problem. In essense focus on underlying cause or relieve the symptom but institutialise the problem. Institutionalising the problem better suits the lefts vested political interest so I guess this is rationale reason to focus on symptom rather than cause and individaul responsibility

    • Macro 5.1

      you should give a health warning when making this kind of comment – I nearly spilt my coffee!
      eg:
      “national in turn want to focus on underlying cause”! Yeah Right!
      If they truly wanted to focus on the underlying causes, then why are they so relaxed about a 6+% unemployment rate and 60,000 more unemployed than when they came to office??
      It’s these factors that the left concentrate on – NOT National. Ask Key what he proposes to to about unemployment – he hasn’t got a clue! What are National’s policies on reducing unemployment and that includes improving the figures on underemployment? Nothing!

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Ask Key what he proposes to to about unemployment – he hasn’t got a clue!

        That’s wrong, Key knows exactly what he wants to do about unemployment – increase it so that wages can be forced down even more.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      national in turn want to focus on underlying cause, ie give a man a fishing rod,

      That would be why they’ve been attacking education, beating up on beneficiaries so that they’re worse off and still don’t have a job or any hope of getting one and giving tax cuts and massive taxpayer subsidies to the rich.

  6. You miss the GFC Marco

    Govt do not creat jobs people do, people also align there skills to the job market therefore individuals need to more than ever plan and make the right decisions There is not a lack of jobs in nz but a lack of skills and to a degree job snobbishness and a lack of labour mobility.

    The world has changed we don’t live in the 1950s any more, unskilled labour is priced at the global rate hence why high low skilled labour content jobs move offshore. What low skilled jobs that are left are priced at supply and demand.

    Marco your problem you are looking for the government to solve your problem, Unfortunatly for you the days of full employment via govt subsidy are over ie employing 40000 people in the railways, SMP farm subsidies, the public service been 50 PC of the economy are no more. it was fun while it lasted but when the overseas funders turned the tap off the country nearly went down the gurgler.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      [Multiple citations needed.]

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      Govt do not creat jobs people do, people also align there skills to the job market therefore individuals need to more than ever plan and make the right decisions There is not a lack of jobs in nz but a lack of skills and to a degree job snobbishness and a lack of labour mobility.

      You’re a bit of an idiot, aren’t you. And you clearly live on Planet Key, to boot.

      Spending into the economy creates jobs, moran. And in slow economic times Government is a far better spender than the private sector.

      Seriously, actually try next time.

  7. Ad 7

    Cunliffe has set himself an almighty load promising to go on Campbell Live every year of the term to be held accountable for poverty.

    Hope to heaven there’s a real good plan that makes an annual and measurable difference. otherwise, as the prophet Daniel said, he will be weighed in the scales and found wanting.

  8. DTB How is tax a subsidy to the rich, it is not the government money in the first place, they aquire it by legislation

    Attacking education, by that you mean looking for a better return on the huge dollar spent in this area, while seeking and funding innovation at the boundaries for kids that are failing in the system ie charter schools, lead teachers etc

    Welfare bashing, you mean helping people to move on from state dependency where welfare is not seen as a life time option

    More rationale thought and synthesis please and Less hyper bole and myopic thinking

    • millsy 8.1

      Do you want the poor to live in the streets?

      Do you want to close down the public education system?

    • Fran 8.2

      @Reddelusion
      Tax is the means by which societies fund the things they collectively see as important. Once upon a time full employment was seen as important so society as a whole helped fund that through the tax system. Governments can and do create jobs and help create the environment in which others feel able to create jobs.

      The education system in this country is not failing. There have always been the means to set up alternative education programmes for the “tail” without charter schools and many such programmes exist, (community colleges etc.). Unfortunately this current Government has closed or refused to fund a number of programmes with proven track records and gone with this new model which has been such a disaster in other countries.

      Lead teachers are not going to fix anything. Bringing back a well funded and resourced advisory would. This was possibly the most stupid thing any government has ever done to our education system – to sack all the expert teachers who were working as advisors, no wonder there are concerns about some curriculum areas (science springs to mind).

      People should only be helped from “welfare dependency” when decent employment is an option. Pushing people of benefits without that is why I am seeing beggars in my city. This is new but I guess they are no longer “welfare dependent” so the policies are working.

      Myopic and thoughtless comments supporting obviously bad and ill thought out policies just reveal an inability to think independently.

    • Foreign waka 8.3

      @ Reddelusion:Tax is actually collected from the working people for the most part so much is proven. The people who have plenty can afford a “professional” to help them to NOT pay their share. This is the deal, by utilizing all sorts of “tax credits” and then after all is worked out declaring their income. As long as the Tax department is satisfied, as little as possible is contributed to the larger society (fraud is always ever detected when a company becomes defunct) A worker on the other hand, that’s a different story isn’t it? Their money is collected by stealth and is now paid in subsidies to the people who don’t earn enough to make a living. This has lead to the development of such a perverse method that the people who pay tax get a little bit return so that the one who cheats the tax can make profits that are then not fully declared. If it wouldn’t be so sad, it would be funny and surely a story for Eiphrem Kishon to tell. So yes, its Corporate Welfare and still the poor are being punished. I leave it to you to asses the state of mind one needs to devise this.
      As for declaring that beneficiaries who are taken off welfare and left without income are now “incentivised” to go out and “do something” is not just ignorant but outright cruel and a lot of hatred is on display. In my point of view, it is against human rights and I just wonder how long it takes to have this one legal eagle brave enough to file a case.
      As for Education, it was in fact the good ol’ Californian model, also something new and shiny that can cut corners and lives to shreds that was introduced in the late 70’s – reading by “recognizing the word” that has a lot to answer for. Oh yes, when the English language, one of the most colorful and wonderful languages is being castrated it needs some thought to do this. The aim one could in retrospect surmise, is to raise a generation that cannot “recognize” when they have been had. So now that the dead is done another ruse should remedy the situation, how fantastic. Now we need a new generation that is IT literate and we have to do something, fast! So now some more tax is being pilfered to have some more experiments undertaken. And by the way, the dollar spent is not a dollar wasted but invested. But how would you know when everybody around has their mind firmly on those quick returns?

    • Murray Olsen 8.4

      The national currency as a means of exchange can only exist thanks to government and the system of laws. Taxation pays for this system and protects and guarantees the exchange value. In a very real sense, the money belongs to the state. The rich are allowed to keep far too much of it.

      In education, there have been state schools that have been innovative, for example in Moerewa. The government persecutes them and insists that all state schools follow the same template. The idea of rock star teachers is about as valid as the idea that we have a rock star economy. You don’t get to be a rock star by singing one song, and that one about milk powder.

      Welfare bashing – yes, we mean welfare bashing. If the idea were to help people “progress” in the market, Paula Benefat would have kept the programs that helped her. John Key would be a fan of state housing.

      I bet you say hyper bowl as well.

  9. millsy 9

    Quite frankly, if women are left to sleep in their car the night after they have given birth, and other women are 9 months pregnant and still living on the streets, then what hope do the rest of us have?

  10. ?????? Millsy your a ability to extrapolate my arguments to the ridiculous is truly impressive, in no way am I arguing the removal of the welfare net, public healthcare or education. Some advise, Read a bit more slowly with out pre judgement, then try to take a broader view beyond pre engrained bias or ideology

  11. crocodill 11

    Christ almighty, so now we have to go back to explaining capitalism to the capitalists?

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