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We used to be better at this

Written By: - Date published: 11:48 am, March 19th, 2012 - 68 comments
Categories: benefits, jobs - Tags:

Danyl at Dimpost had a good post the other day about benefit numbers and showing that they go up in relation to hard economic times – not because people these days are a bunch of lazy solo parents who just need a kick up the arse. If you look back even further than he did, you see that unemployment is a result of ideological political choices.

Here are the long-run numbers on the dole and DPB from MSD’s Statistical Report:

As Danyl points out, there’s no ‘crisis’ in DPB numbers that justify the Nats’ obsession with going after solo mums. There has been an increase during the recession but, even so, the numbers are significantly below the trend of the past 25 years.

The DPB was introduced in 1974 mainly to give women and their children some measure of financial independence if they had to leave an abusive relationship or the relationship broke down for other reasons. It took time for that be fully realised – every battered woman in the country didn’t leave her husband as soon as the DPB became available. But since the mid-80s DPB numbers have been between 2% and 3% of the population.

There is some link with unemployment numbers with the correlation suggesting that the ‘zero unemployment’ level of DPB take-up would be about 1.5% of the population – above that is due to economic factors. In today’s numbers – full employment would bring about 48,000 people off the DPB.

The dole numbers, when compared to unemployment numbers, suggest you would get zero people on the dole with the unemployment rate still at about 2.5% – presumably the rest would be people in short-term gaps between jobs that wouldn’t have time to get the dole or people who are otherwise ineligible. The 0.87 correlation between dole numbers and the unemployment rate tells you it’s not ‘bludging’ but lack of jobs that’s the problem

And it wasn’t always this way. Look at the start of the graph. 0.1% of the population on the dole – and that was up on a decade before! The huge rise in dole numbers is clearly linked to the ideological moves of neoliberals who decided it was better to have an army of unemployed people on the dole – creating competition for scarce jobs to drive down wages.

The Right would respond that, before that, tens of thousands were employed in ‘do nothing’ jobs by state departments that acted as employer of last resort. Well, when the alternative is paying out $11,000 a year for the dole, losing another $8,000 in tax take, depressing wages, and the numerous social consequences of endemic unemployment in communities, employing less than 2% of the population in jobs that might not be strictly economic viable in their own right seems like a fair deal overall.

When you consider the total costs and benefits, having the government shell out some coin to create jobs for 60,000 people that wouldn’t happen on a purely commercial basis seems like a social and fiscal winner. We used to do it, after all. But do any of our parties have the imagination for that these days, or have they all drunk the neoliberal kool-aid so much that they think having tens of thousands of people on the dole is unavoidable, even natural?

68 comments on “We used to be better at this ”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    “Danyl at Dimpost had a good post the other day about benefit numbers and showing that they go up in relation to hard economic times – not because people these days are a bunch of lazy solo parents who just need a kick up the arse.”

    So, since unemployment numbers went up much more during the period from 1987 to 1993, and given that the current recession is much tougher than it was during the period from 1987-1993, is it fair to say that National has been handling the much tougher conditions far better than might have been expected.

    • McFlock 1.1

      Better than might have been expected from Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson implementing a massive reorienting of the economy, indeed. The National Standards approach to government evaluation – set the benchmark low enough and you’re guaranteed to “achieve”.

       

    • “So, since unemployment numbers went up much more during the period from 1987 to 1993, and given that the current recession is much tougher than it was during the period from 1987-1993, is it fair to say that National has been handling the much tougher conditions far better than might have been expected.”

      Sure.

      They gave away billions in tax cuts and then borrowed $380 million a week to make up for the shortfall.

      If Labour had done that, TS, you’d be somewhat displeased at such irresponsible profligacy. But it’s ok when National does it.

      By the way, unemployment in the early 1990s was over 10% – contrasted to the 7% in the last couple of years.

      • aerobubble 1.2.1

        And they won’t borrow but instead want to sell high returning assets in a energy constricted future.

    • Rob 1.3

      and its trending down so we are on the right path.

      • aerobubble 1.3.1

        High global commodity prices will continue to keep the dip feed of do-nothing parliaments of both left and right. Labour CGT will only bring us up to international average. To go beyond we need to build culture of give a damn. As opposed to the can’t give damn that housing is so shate, earth quake prone, deregulation kills people, etc, etc.

  2. The actual cause of unemployment is not ‘ideology’ but falling profits due to an inherent tendency within capitalism to stagnate. http://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/the-failure-of-capitalist-production-by-andrew-kliman-part-2/
    The ‘ideology’ comes in when the unemployed are blamed for unemployment, most viciously when solo mothers are targeted as welfare cheats having babies to avoid work when raising children is the most demanding job there is.
    The economic purpose of NACTs welfare reform is to force 30,000 beneficiaries onto the queue of unemployed driving down wages to create more cheap jobs. This is the NACTs job creation scheme.
    Of course that’s why the NACTs adopted WWF, because that too is nothing but the subsidising of a cheap labour economy that pays unlivable wages paid to a growing sector of the labour force.
    NZs current role in the global division of labour is to produce cheap commodities, including labour, for the large imperialist corporates. Time for decolonisation.
    http://redrave.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/nz-time-for-decolonisation.html

    • Tiger Mountain 2.1

      The tendency for the “rate of profit to fall” has long been controversial. The ratio of constant to variable (usually ascribed to labour) capital is a sliding measure. There are numerous dense writings about this. And it gets rather complicated in these times of free lancers in nerdy glasses thinking that they are their own boss, and SMEs rather than huge industrial settings. The thing is the total macro effect of the current means of production and the inflow and outflow of capital.

      Dave is correct that our political rulers are really comprador capitalists, not that he expresses it in that way. Workers of the world unite!

  3. felix 3

    “Well, when the alternative is paying out $11,000 a year for the dole, losing another $8,000 in tax take, depressing wages, and the numerous social consequences of endemic unemployment in communities, employing less than 2% of the population in jobs that might not be strictly economic viable in their own right seems like a fair deal overall.”

    Why are you assuming that depressing wages and breaking down communities are negatives in the equation?

  4. Gosman 4

    Interesting that DPB numbers aren’t that responsive to the wider health of the economy from the looks of that graph. I fact they have been within the 2 to 3 percent band for the past two decades.

    • felix 4.1

      Yeah, bugger all innit?

    • To a degree, Gosman.

      Though like the example of my partner’s cousin; she came home early one day to find her hubby, suitcases in hand; leaving the house. He was walking out on her; their three children; and was shacking up with his co-worker.

      That left the poor woman distraught; three children to care for (youngest 18 months); the oldest child angry and resentful; and she’s had to go on the DPB. They are upper middle class I guess.

      Meanwhile, ex-hubby is now living with blonde co-worker and enjoying himself.

      Funny thing… some in society demonise solo-mums, and yet they’re the ones left holding the baby (literally). Solo dads or absent fathers never get this kind of grief from society. (No criticism of solo-fathers – it’s hardly their fault.)

      I also blogged about another friend of ours (a solo-mum) who has done all the right things; http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-solo-mum/

      Unfortunately, Bennet canned the TIA which has helped so many women get off the benefit and into employment. (The same benefit that Bennett used to put herself through university and buy a house.)

      • Gosman 4.2.1

        I don’t think too many people demonise women simply for being on the DPB (certainly not in the mainstream). It is more their actions while on the DPB that they might get criticised for such as having additional children while on the benefit.

        It is obviously harder for absent father’s to be targetted in the way you suggest as they don’t tend to self identify themselves and even if they acknowledge they are absent father’s they might have valid reasons for this. Perhaps it was their wife that left them and took the kids with her and won’t let the man see the kids.

        • felix 4.2.1.1

          “I don’t think too many people demonise women simply for being on the DPB (certainly not in the mainstream).”

          Nah just in parliament, in nationwide radio commentary, in opinion pieces in the major newspapers and all over the internet every day. Definitely not in the imaginary mainstream though.

          • Gosman 4.2.1.1.1

            So where is the evidence that someone is demonised purely for being on the DPB as opposed to their actions while on the benefit? You stated this happens in Parliament so do you have a link to a copy of Hansard where an MP is doing this?

            • felix 4.2.1.1.1.1

              Careful Gosman, you’re opening a can of worms.

              I could link you to any number of nuanced statements from Bennett and Key who have said women choose the DPB as a lifestyle many times in many different ways.

              But if I start insisting on links to evidence of every idea that seeps out of your filthy hole you’re going to have a very hard time diverting threads from now on.

              • Gosman

                I don’t mind providing evidence for my claims when asked. For example my claim about the relative unemployment rates of countries with left and right wing economic policies. I am more than happy to contrast places like the US and Sweden or New Zealand and Finland. In fact I have provided a number of links in the past that have done something very similar including an article from the Economist whoich highlights major issues with Sweden’s unemployment rate.

                • felix

                  So what? You’re asking for evidence of a perception which is quite another matter.

                  But if that’s the road you want to go down, I’m ready. Let’s play.

                  • Gosman

                    Go for it then. Provide examples where Paula Bennett denigrates people on the DPB purely for being on the DPB.

                    • felix

                      No thanks, I think I’ll jump directly to demanding evidence for everything you say, as agreed.

        • Vicky32 4.2.1.2

          Perhaps it was their wife that left them and took the kids with her and won’t let the man see the kids.

          My heart bleeds! 😀 If a woman does that, you can guarantee there’s a good reason, inasmuch as a woman is not legally allowed to not let the man see the kids – unless she can prove he’s a danger to them.
          (I well remember my friend in Welly, trying desperately to get her daughters to go and visit their father without creating a huge fuss every time. They didn’t want to see Daddy, but J., wasn’t legally allowed to let them off going)

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 4.2.2

        @Frank – Bludger Bennett scored a house? Perhaps that’s why RWNJs are so convinced that beneficiaries are all ripping off the system – it’s what they would do.

    • Blighty 4.3

      Interesting how Righties tend to miss things:

      “There is some link with unemployment numbers with the correlation suggesting that the ‘zero unemployment’ level of DPB take-up would be about 1.5% of the population – above that is due to economic factors. In today’s numbers – full employment would bring about 48,000 people off the DPB.”

  5. ChrisH 5

    Imagine if 60,000 people were employed to fit insulation in homes and make our cities more beautiful. Just saying.

    • King Kong 5.1

      You are onto it Chris H. Its called work for the dole.

      Just over the road from my house in Thorndon is Anderson Park and the Rose Gardens which was constructed under a similar scheme and is a great success.

      • No, not work-for-the-dole.

        Let’s try something more imaginative; bolder; and more dignified; let’s try REAL jobs for REAL pay.

        Wouldn’t that be better?

        • Gosman 5.1.1.1

          What’s a ‘Real’ job Frank?

          You could employ almost everybody who is unemployed as policy analysts for the civil service. Would that be a ‘Real’ job?

          • Frank Macskasy 5.1.1.1.1

            That is an inane question to ask.

            • Gosman 5.1.1.1.1.1

              No it’s not. It goes to the heart of the divide between left and right. The fact that you are seemingly unaware of this speaks volumes of your understanding of the other side of the debate.

              • Yep in Helen Clark’s time there were thousands of low quality jobs created such as teachers jobs and nurses jobs …

              • framu

                sorry gosman

                your silly style of discussion goes nowhere near the heart of the divide between left and right

                • Gosman

                  Care to expand on that or should we all just take you at your word?

                  The right believes you can only have social spending when you have a productive economy to support it.

                  The left believes that having a decent level of social spending will encourage the productive sector.

                  You disagree with this accessment then please tell me what is wrong with it.

                  Please note I am not meaning whether you think the arguments put forward by either side are correct or not. Just focus on the fundamental differences between the arguments.

                  • felix

                    Actually the left believes that people in a civilised society have a right to a decent job to provide for themselves and their families.

                    The right don’t believe there is such a thing as society.

                    • Gosman

                      The left pays lip service to this idea about everyone has a ‘right’ to a decent, (whatever that actually means), job. When you look at the reality around the world left leaning Governments tend to only resolve this problem in the short to medium term by increasing the size of the state sector at the expense of the private. Over time the Unemployment rate is similar or higher to those from right leaning countries.

                    • felix

                      So what? Did I claim to speak for left-leaning governments? Please argue with what I said, not with your own imagination.

                      Interesting that you don’t know what the word “decent” means in this context. How about “dignity”, any clues about that?

                      Or do those concepts not factor into your model easily enough?

                    • Gosman

                      I never stated you did. I’m merely pointing out that it is easy to say you stand for something that you deem to have value. If the results of your actions though is nothing better than someone who you believe doesn’t place the same value on that same thing then who is failing?

                    • felix

                      “I never stated you did.”

                      You didn’t need to, you responded to my assertion about a belief held by “the left” with some waffle about “left-leaning govts” so either you’re accusing me of speaking for them or you’re changing the subject and pretending you’re not.

                      “who is failing?”

                      You and your model. You can’t quantify decency and dignity so you deny their relevance.

                      Ultimate fail. Humanity fail.

                  • framu

                    thats all good and well – but…

                    “You could employ almost everybody who is unemployed as policy analysts for the civil service. Would that be a ‘Real’ job?”

                    …. is on the same level as “well lets make the minimum wage $100 per hour”

                    when you typed it you were (hopefully) just being a bit cute, not actually discussing the heart of the divide between left and right.

                    Im pretty certain im not the only one who notices that some comment threads get filled with inane distractions and absurd arguments from yourself

                    • Gosman

                      I wasn’t the one who brought ‘Real’ jobs into this discussion. All I want is for the term to be qualified exactly what it means. The reason I took it to extremes was to highlight the problem with just using it in an argument. It is meaningless without further detail.

                    • framu

                      ” The reason I took it to extremes was to highlight the problem with just using it in an argument.”

                      bollocks IMO – its just part of the little game you like to play here and on other blogs

                  • Foreign Waka

                    Gosman, reading through your posts is like reading “the Piano” as brutal and last century as the book. The future will hold even more challenges when the automation really takes hold. Robots can actually do most of ANY job these days. So what are we going to do in the next 20 or so years? Today’s School leavers will be not only affected by the logistic of arguments but also by forsight of what kind of society we want to be.

                    • Gosman

                      ‘Robots can actually do most of ANY job these days’

                      Really???

                      Take I.T. as an example. What evidence is there that Robots can do most of the job around application development?

                      Are these self financing Robots as well? Do they go out and create their own capital required to start the business and then go out and distribute their own products to themselves without any human interaction?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Take I.T. as an example.

                      Why? Oh, that’s right, because it’s something that can’t, yet, be done by machine.

                      How about we take something a little more basic like, McDs. McDs is basically a production line for burgers and, as such, everything done to produce their burgers could be done by machine up to and including taking and giving out the orders.

                  • eljaydee

                    Gosman, The right’s concept of social spending is to outsource it to a friendly corporation whereas the left prefers to provide it directly to the reciptients.

              • felix

                Gosman,

                The left/right divide is best highlighted here by the fact that you think your suggestion that hiring thousands of unemployed workers to insulate homes is comparable to hiring thousands of unemployed workers as policy analysts is a serious matter for discussion.

                • Gosman

                  I think it is a pretty fair comparision. What happened in Australia when they spent all that money on a similar insulation scheme?

                  • felix

                    Those two sentences are unrelated.

                    • Gosman

                      Just employing someone to do a job isn’t necessarily a good thing felix. That is the relationship.

                    • felix

                      And that one is unrelated to the first two.

                      Are you set to random today? You’re not even up to your usual dribbling standard.

                  • Tiger Mountain

                    Your desiccated text Gozzie is like a repeating loop from an existential screenplay written by an Algerian torturer.

                    Proscribing poverty for others is rarely the work of someone on the minimum wage .

      • lprent 5.1.2

        Problem is that work for the dole requires a much greater investment than simply paying the dole. Shovels, tools, and supervision. Historically the central National government has been keen to have work for the dole. However they don’t cough up the required cash to actually create sustainable work for the dole schemes.

        And whenever it has happened in the past it invariably winds up as simply reducing the amount of real work because typically local government and community groups get pressured into covering the government’s arse. But the schemes seldom last.

        Stupid policy generally.

    • muzza 5.2

      Imagine if the governments of this country over the past 40 years were doing what was best for NZ and its people!

      Nah fcuk them, and the country, we will do what we are told from offshore, bit by bit we will have them all sticking pins in eachother..they will not even try to look for the real problems, we will simply divert their attention is gadgets and toys, while disenfrachising them from democratic process through corrupting of government!

    • Lanthanide 5.3

      Yes, imagine how many houses would burn down from improperly installed insulation by unskilled (and uncaring) people pulled off the street as a make-work activity, as has happened in Australia.

      • Rob 5.3.1

        I would stop using the Aus insulation case study as it has turned out to be a disaster. There has been lots of call backs due to incomplete and sub standard work, a multitude of businesses set up quickly to take advantage of the scheme have fallen over and gone to ground giving consumers and local govt a real issue to fixing up poor quality installation.

        Dont get me wrong here, the idea of insulating houses is vary valid. Just the execution of this particular programme in Aus has been a horror show and will continue to be for a long time.

        • Lanthanide 5.3.1.1

          That’s why I’m referencing it.

          It’s all very well saying “lets give home insulation jobs to all those on benefits!” but when push comes to shove, actually installing insulation does require some level of skill and competence, otherwise it is a disaster.

          It’s like after the February quake there were a few people on here saying we should get beneficiaries to lay drains in CHCH because it’s as easy as just picking up a shovel or some such tripe. I argued strenuously against this and was eventually backed up by several drain-layers who completely agreed that it simply isn’t work that beneficiaries with little to no training can do.

          • felix 5.3.1.1.1

            Why is everyone assuming that we have to put people in jobs they haven’t been trained for?

            Surely we train them first, no?

  6. Jimmie 6

    A silly question to ask – if the DPB was introduced solely to allow battered women to leave an abusive relationship why don’t they make it a requirement to get the DPB for the batterer to have been prosecuted and convicted in relation to the assault.

    That way only the really desperate and needy women folk would get the DPB and anyone who decided that popping kids out was a great career choice may decide differently.

    Especially as now with the pill etc. having a baby is more of a choice than an inevitable outcome of a night of passion. If there are single mums who cannot find work then put them on the dole.

    I mean what happened to all the single mums before 1974? Ya can’t tell me there were tens of thousands of women getting beaten up all around NZ – the trouble is ya make something freely available and may folks will take you up on the offer – Physiotherapy anyone?

    • Vicky32 6.1

      A silly question to ask – if the DPB was introduced solely to allow battered women to leave an abusive relationship why don’t they make it a requirement to get the DPB for the batterer to have been prosecuted and convicted in relation to the assault.

      Yes, it is a bloody silly question, based on a depth of ignorance that’s truly appalling. When I was first on the DPB in the late 1970s, I had to produce proof of legal separation from the man who battered me. Waiting for the man to be prosecuted and convicted would mean asking the woman and her child(ren) to starve for a year or 18 months.

      That way only the really desperate and needy women folk would get the DPB and anyone who decided that popping kids out was a great career choice may decide differently.

      Ah, the old breeding for a benefit meme. Are you so stupid that you believe that happens?

      Especially as now with the pill etc. having a baby is more of a choice than an inevitable outcome of a night of passion. If there are single mums who cannot find work then put them on the dole.

      More hate-filled ignorance. Women on the DPB are women who were previously in a relationship – whether they were single (de-facto) or married. IMO, women who have single ‘nights of passion’ are not women who become single mothers.

      I mean what happened to all the single mums before 1974?

      Their children were (sometimes forcibly) adopted out. Some lucky few were, with the help of their parents, able to keep their child.

      Ya can’t tell me there were tens of thousands of women getting beaten up all around NZ –

      More ignorance. Because, dick-wad, yes, there were.
      (Are you, too, an American? I ask because you cover all the bases in regard to the ‘welfare queen’ meme – and use a shedload of Americanisms..)

    • Blighty 6.2

      yeah, let’s go back to the golden days before 1974 where raping your wife wasn’t a crime, where physical ‘discipline’ of both wife and children was widespread, where children had to be adopted out and where women had to prove it was the man’s fault to get support if they left him.

    • felix 6.3

      Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen so much ignorance in a single comment for a while.

    • Populuxe1 6.4

      Yeah, because being pregnant is so much fun! Not to mention any woman can get pregnant at the drop of a hat… Oh and being a solo parent is non-stop jollies…. You, Jimmie, are a disgusting and ignorant man.

    • rosy 6.5

      A silly question to ask – if the DPB was introduced solely to allow battered women to leave an abusive relationship why don’t they make it a requirement to get the DPB for the batterer to have been prosecuted and convicted in relation to the assault.

      Yes, a silly question. The DPB wasn’t introduced to allow women to leave violent men. It was introduced so single parents (usually mothers) could have an income that they would otherwise have had to go to court to get from the child/ren’s non-custodial parent (usually fathers).

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    There is a serious misunderstanding on this thread around workers vs robots. During times of increasing systems and resources fragility, human workers will win usually win. During times of increasing energy and resource abundance, mechanisation and automation will usually win.

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