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.