The Nats abandoned their wastewatch.co.nz site a few years back after being unable to identify significant waste. They should have just waited a few years. Now, the examples are neverending.
Today’s case: Steven Joyce’s plan to publish the average incomes of graduates of different courses. A huge administrative task to tell us nothing.
They’re going to do this by data-matching incomes of people five years after graduation. That means linking your IRD data to your study data. Your qualification provider already gives some info to IRD for student loans but IRD doesn’t get all your study details – which degrees you’re taking, what qualifications you end up with. So, they’re going to have to go through and start matching all this data. And it will be for a huge number of people to get statistically meaningful results. Lots of bureaucrat man-hours there.
Do they have the legal power to do that? Not without your permission I wouldn’t have thought. IRD personal data is closely held and not released for mere statistical exercises like this. Reckon they would have to get your permission. More paperwork.
Joyce has offered no costing for this plan. I guess it’ll be ‘met from baselines’, which means cutting other stuff that is actually useful.
And what are we told at the end? That people who take some courses earn a statistically significant amount more than others. Well, as they say, duh. Does that mean we should shut down the low-earning courses and bump everyone into the high-earning ones?
a) the high-earning course may require abilities that not everyone has
b) courses are different lengths. Are we going to close down diplomas and make everyone study for seven years at medical school
c) in a diversified economy we need lower paid occupations just as much as we need higher paying ones (which is one reason why lower-paid jobs should be paid more, they’re vital too). If we discover that people 5 years out of medical school are paid more than people five years out of nurses’ college does that mean we need more doctors and fewer nurses?
d) some professions have gradual, ongoing advancement, others don’t. I would think that, say, a plumber with five years’ will have progressed quite rapidly in that industry’s income scale, whereas an academic with five years’ experience after getting their doctorate is still close to bottom of the heap.
e) there’s obvious gender and ethnic issues. A woman five years’ out of tertiary is less likely to be in the workforce than a man (labourforce participation rate for 25-29 men – 89.5%, women 74.5%) because women are more likely to be raising children. Maori and Pacific Islanders have higher unemployment levels. So, courses that are prominently taken by women, Maori, or Pacific Islanders are likely to show lower incomes than those taken by Pakeha men – that’s without even talking about the pay discrimination factor.
So, those are all reasons why any data you get on different incomes from different qualifications is going to be next to worthless without some pretty serious caveats. I’m sure there are more I just haven’t thought of off the top of my head.
But, finally, there’s a more fundamental issue – education isn’t all about the money.
In launching this policy, Steven Joyce lamented the fact that he took photography in fifth form. Apparently, that was a waste of time that would have been better spent learning how to cut dirty deals with casinos or something. It’s a shame if Joyce feels that way about everything he’s learned that has directly contributed to his career (and by that measure, surely his degree in Zoology is a bigger waste).
But, is it really such a waste that he took photography and never used it professionally? By any economic measure he still turned out pretty good, and taking photography allowed him to experience something more – learn a skill and an art for the beauty of it. And, if he had really enjoyed it and been any good, he could have even made a decent living of it.
I wish he had, come to think of it. Would have saved the rest of the country from a lot of half-baked ideas and dirty deals.