Four mistakes that prove Key is clueless about poverty

OPINION

Geoff Simmons

Prime Minister John Key (Photo: Rob Hosking)

The prime minister’s response to the increase in children living below the poverty line is incorrect and completely contradictory.

On the one hand he has dismissed the rise of child poverty as a result of parents not working, and in particular singled out drug dependency as a problem. Both of these statements are incorrect according to the government’s own statistics.

On the other hand he’s pointed to Jonah Lomu’s kids as being a special case – for some reason those poor boys are deserving of help whereas the other 305,000 are not.

As we pointed out on Tuesday, this only reinforces the misconception that child poverty is the result of poor parenting. As we saw in that blog, this approach is incorrect and has failed to deliver effective policies, yet we continue with it.

Blunder #1: Poverty is due to people not working
According to the Child Poverty Monitor, the majority of children in poverty live in households where one or more parents are employed. So actually Mr Key is wrong – finding these people work will not be the answer to poverty. More likely it will push the child from living in a poor beneficiary household to a poor employed household. A lot depends on how you define ‘employed,’ of course, as with casual employment some people move in and out of receiving benefits many times over a year.

This tells us two important things. Firstly, the benefit system is out of date and can’t keep pace with the rapidly changing modern working world. Secondly, the market can no longer provide a living wage for low skilled jobs. Both of these are reasons for serious reform – which is why we think we need to introduce an Unconditional Basic Income.

Blunder #2: The answer to poverty is work
As we pointed out on Tuesday, there is no evidence that pushing solo parents back into work makes the kids better off. The only exception is when two conditions are met: the job is good enough for the family’s income to increase (after the additional costs of working), and the child is placed in high quality childcare (which often isn’t the case in our poor neighbourhoods).

Again, Mr Key (and government policy) is wrong to be pushing solo mums back to work when they have kids as young as three, without a serious investment in skills and quality childcare.

Blunder #3: People are on benefits because of drugs
This was just plain fantasy land, and contradicted the statistics lauded by his own government ministers.

As we saw in 2014, of the 8000 beneficiaries tested for drugs, only 22 tested positive or refused to take the tests. That’s 0.27%. Statistics New Zealand figures show that beneficiaries and working households spend the same amount of their income on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs: 2.7%. So in absolute terms, it appears that beneficiaries actually spend less on drugs than the rest of us. It shouldn’t be a surprise really, as they have less money.

Drugs are certainly a problem facing our society impacting on our health and economy. However, they are a problem right across our society. Some poor people take them as a way to deal with their stressed and difficult lives, but some rich people do the same. There is no evidence that drug problems are a significant cause of poverty or preventing people from working. If the prime minister has some evidence to the contrary, why isn’t he investing more in mental health and drug rehab programmes?

Blunder #4: Some people are deserving of help and others aren’t
The situation facing Jonah Lomu’s boys is certainly sad.

But why doesn’t the prime minister show the same empathy for the 305,000 other children growing up in poverty? They haven’t chosen the situation they are in. Indeed, neither have many of the parents who are living in poverty and trying to raise their kids.

Almost half of them are solo parents, who may have been abandoned by their partner, left them to avoid abuse, or even had their partner die. Many of the families in poverty are working in low paid jobs, trying to give their kids the best start they can with the paltry sum they take home each week.

There are lots of incredible stories out there of hard working parents struggling to do the best for their kids against the odds. Instead of singing Mariah Carey songs, all I want for Christmas is a prime minister who shows the same empathy for poor families that he doesn’t know as the ones he does. I’m sure Mariah would class many of them as heroes.

Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. This post first appeared on Gareth's World.

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Excellent article. Makes JK out for the clueless twit he really is. I just hope that the many right leaning readers of this publication read this and really consider the issue and what is happening in NZ. Poverty is not good for any of us and the constant 'blame the victim' comments that I read so often in response to this issue, frustrates the hell out of me.

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Too many children being born to solo mothers. Just look at the "poverty" headlines in the NZ Herald for example. Unfortunately, the children are the victims of the reckless "breeding" by their parents, with the father usually off getting another young woman pregnant, but with no intention of taking responsibility for the consequences.

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There you go... I rest my case.

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Funny thing is, I thought that labeling Jonah's kids as "victims of the reckless" may be spot on, especially as it seems they will now become just another couple of beneficiaries. Otherwise Sarki, I agree with you totally.

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Does this Sarki think she/he is God!! poverty is self inflicted it is a lifestyle choice believe me, I've been there done that got over my self and got on with life, it's all about the space that you put YOURSELF into.
We have a beggar around our area, he sits outside certain area's and with his sign begging for money for food and shelter, when he gets enough, which is rare these days because most know his motivation, he high tails it down to the TAB, a friend gave him a $5 voucher for a Pizza Hut Pizza {$4.95} as he sits outside the door, he declined it!! like I said it is a self inflicted lifestyle, do I feel sorry for them in this modern era, not one little bit especially when 10,000 overseas workers are about to land on our shores to pick our fruit crops.

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Quite correct I know a girl who was on a dating site looking for a guy just to father another child for her because she felt like having another child. Her first child was fathered by her flatmate who then fell out with her so he was useless!

If Geoff was a serious economist he wouldn't be personalising his critique of government policy. You won't win any credibility Geoff by attacking the Prime Minister. And shame on NBR if they came up with the "clueless" headline!

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If Anon was a serious commentator they would rely on statistics rather than anecdotes. Of course there are always people that abuse the system, same with taxpayers. But is it the norm? The evidence says no.

Also Anon you won't win any credibility by hiding your identity.

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Geoff, your statistics are correct, but i dont see any quotes from John Key in context here - simply your own slants on what you believe he said. Thats a pretty rudeway to take somebody down. Why dont we all spend time actually DOING something to make this better instead of complaining on here like you have? (Me included as im now commenting also... Food for thought heh?)

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You miss the whole point of Geoffs commentary Secret Identity Man. The PM is suppose to show leadership, rather than pick on those that cant defend themselves.

Unemployment benefits are but a fraction of the pension, while Working for family benefit payments are in essence a subsidy masking wages that aren't sufficient to fund a household. Wages have been suppressed by multi national big business, inflating their profit to export offshore.

If Jon Key wanted to do something for the wider good, rather than speak hot air, increase wages to a living wage. This wont cost jobs, as someone has to do the work and our floating exchange rate will adjust itself to make our export profits competitive.

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Or the ridiculous 305,000....or are they the ones without the full Sky suite?
And talking of numbers....that 8,000 drug-tested, I would suggest, leaves many, many "single parents" to confirm that Key's IQ would be way above the average hire at the Morgan Institute. Any ideas from your think tank on getting the itinerant partners to pay for their offspring. That would be useful, rather than just echoing the er, Poverty Monitor.

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Omigosh you know one girl, etc.etc. I think that labels you as the typical tory mentioned in Sarki's post. Have a Merry Christmas.

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>"If Geoff was a serious economist he wouldn't be personalising his critique of government policy."

That is an unworthy argument.

The Prime Minister has a massive public voice when it comes to issues such as social welfare and child poverty. He receives significant media coverage of most of his statements whether they be wise or foolish. The PM's comments heavily influence public perception and thinking because they are generally assumed to be reasonably well-informed and considered.

If the PM is making comments that are factually wrong about important social issues such as child poverty it is necessary that people step in to correct these in public discourse.

How does it better our country and its future to have the Prime Minister promulgating incorrect statements around child poverty? The answer is, it doesn't.

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This is an example of what is wrong with NZ society

Get a grip and face the problem instead of bigoted ignorant comments like this

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Actually many poor families are two parent- they just have unstable work. Your views are stuck in the 1990s, please update them.

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What is your solution anonymous person?

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Measuring and addressing the causes of child poverty is not a straightforward task. New Zealand has no agreed definition of poverty or measures. One threshold is beneath 50% of mean disposable income, so by this measure child poverty will always be present.
There is no doubt our most vulnerable need care and protection when their caregivers no longer have the resources to provide for them. This situation sadly has straddled many Governments which is either a reflection of the complexity of the issue or the lack of political will to fix it. Hopefully the political will is there.
Four mistakes equals proof sounds flawed.

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Actually David it is 60% of the median income so statistically it is possible to eradicate child poverty.

But yes, there is no perfect measure. A bundle of measures are needed, but all serious commentators agree that we have child poverty, and that it has risen sharply over the past few decades.

I'm just pointing out the mistakes, not saying it equals proof. I believe comments like this from our PM lack empathy and don't help. They are just pandering to the bigots.

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Thanks Geoff, I suspect we have both read similar articles, and actually both figures are valid.

For instance, on one measure of income
poverty (i.e. those living in households
with equivalised3
disposable incomes
below 60% of the median, after housing
costs), the child poverty rate in recent
years has been around 25%; this is almost
twice the rate experienced during the
1980s, which averaged about 13%. Using
a more demanding poverty measure
(based on 50% of the median household
disposable income, after housing costs)

Regardless of the number of the threshold, if people fall beneath this they will meet the criteria and by definition be in poverty. Using these thresholds 40-50% of children will always be in poverty no matter what is done.
The most vulnerable need help there is no doubt, but a construct that the children of 40-50% of NZ families are in poverty is hard to swallow.

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Indeed. By that definition around half the children in Monaco are living in poverty, which means what exactly, that if your parents are only able to afford a BMW, rather than a Rolls Royce or Maybach that you're poor? Definitions of child poverty like that will ultimately fail due to their own absurdity. Child poverty in my view must imply a serious degree of ongoing hardship and a history of doing without the basics, e.g., adequate food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education, and not that Mum just can't afford a Playstation.

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Sorry Geoff, you will have to explain what you mean by saying "60% of the median income so statistically it is possible to eradicate child poverty". Surely any distribution will have data in it that falls below 60% of the median?

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it's basic maths. if the median income was $50,000 and everyone who earned under that was on $30,000 or more then there would be no-one under 60% of median income. pretty simple really, you just need to grasp the concept that the median is the middle point.

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If everyone earned 30 grand or more (60% of the median when the median was 50 grand ) then the median would no longer be 50 grand would it stargazer?

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You need to check the definition.of median my friend. Raising lower incomes won't increase the median.

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No-one - in government or outside - who works on child poverty issues uses a poverty line based on mean income. Everyone uses medians - usually 60% of median income in NZ (as Geoff points out above), although 50% is an OECD standard measure for international comparisons. The median income is the income of the middle New Zealander's family. If you lined us all up in order of our family incomes from top to bottom and counted in to the middle person of about 4.5 million people, you'd hit the median. Using either of the 60% or 50% of this median measure, child poverty can be completely eliminated by raising every poor child's family income to 61% or 51% of an unchanged middle family income and funding it from those who have incomes above that of the middle New Zealand family.

Second, even if a mean income was used to create a poverty line, it may be logically possible to abolish child poverty via transferring income from families without children, anywhere in the income distribution, or non-poor families with children (as long as there are sufficient of such families), to families with children who are defined as poor on the basis of the average income. The overall average society-wide income does not change, but poor children are raised up, and others, either without children or who are well-to-do with children, move downwards.

The notion, advanced by some, who have included in the past a poorly advised Minister of Finance, that child poverty must, like death and taxes, always be with us and cannot be changed is also readily refuted in practice by the empirical observations that (1) regardless of definitions, child poverty rates have changed over the last 25 years in New Zealand, and in response to quite conscious government policy decisions, notably the welfare benefit cuts of 1991 and introduction of Working for Families in 2005 and (2) a number of OECD countries manage, on the basis of exactly the same poverty definitions, to sustain much lower child poverty rates than New Zealand.

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Thanks Simon,
I think some of the complex stuff is how do you raise the income of 2.25 million households to the 51-61% threshold, I think if it was easy it would have been done a long time ago.
I am genuinely interested in the numbers of dollars that would need be 'transferred' to achieve this outcome, I suspect it is a very large number, again if it was small it would have been done a long time ago.
I wonder in what way does engineering an income equal to 50-60% of the median protect people from making choices with poor financial outcomes, what happens then. We will still have a problem. Lotto winners end up broke.
I am not aware of any country or state, of any political ideology that has eliminated child poverty, this in itself is a sad statement, however if they had we could copy them.
The vulnerable of in our communities need our support, this is without doubt, I believe it is a lot more complex than simply focusing on just wealth transfer.

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Its not as hard as you think.

CE's often earn $1 million plus. If it was half that, the extra funds available could put 25 people on $30k out of poverty.

If you analyse pay movements over the past 2/3 decades, you find huge increases in CE wages, and very little growth in wages for the line workers.

Time to readdress the balance don't you think?

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Claiming poverty in NZ is an insult and a show of contempt for those around the world who live in real poverty. After 70+ years of social welfare in NZ and a situation where you can earn more on the DPB than working, what do we have to show for it? Families and communities destroyed, and we have socialist twits asking for more!!! Well, no doubt they'll get their wish and we'll go the way of Cuba and Venezuela. Of course, it'll never be enough until we collapse. What a joke.

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Another narcissistic comment on a serious article that, at last, has the correct headline. Obviously not from an original Aotearoan, but from the class privileged to have stolen their land.

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Kappanz: You need to get out more and see the world. Realist is 100% correct. There is no such as "child poverty" in NZ and there never will whilst we have a welfare system based on the current model. The irony is that if we had true poverty in NZ, we would be far better off economically. That juxtaposition should give you something to think about.

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While I agree that our welfare system needs to be completely reformed, poverty is not a competition. Our definition of poverty is relative to the fact that we are a wealthy first world country and have a large percentage of children living in households that are earning well below the median household income. At the end of the day we have children who are going without, and that is a serious issue. By saying that their situation is not worthy of care because it's not high enough on the 'child poverty' scale, I'm sorry is simply ignorant and shows a complete lack of empathy for our kids.

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If we were a genuine wealthy first world country that you suggest we are then we should be able to fund exactly the same medicines that first world countries like Australia, Canada, Britain and the EU fund. But the government doesn't fund lots of those medicines so the conclusion can only be that we are not a wealthy first world country at all, more like a well-off second world one.

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I am well aware that there are a huge number of families that struggle to make ends meet in New Zealand and my heart goes out to them. But there is no poverty in NZ. A variety of successive, government policies have eroded the resourcefulness of NZ'rs and the obscene salaries now paid to many local and central government employees (where most where once benchmarked against teacher's salaries) just highlights and adds salt to the wounds. Though there is little attention paid to it, perhaps the greatest contributor to household costs which was delivered in one blow, was the increase of GST from12.5% to 15%. In effect, it equated to around a 28% in living costs ( I was aghast at the time, noting food prices in supermarkets, rising by around 30% overnight) Not only did raising GST have an immediate and detrimental effect on my manufacturing business overnight, my staff became financially worse off and the status quo still exists today. The mean, average annual income in NZ is less than $30,000 pa (i.e. more that 50% of NZ workers earn less than this amount) and this is why so many families continue struggle today to make ends meet Though I hold the Government in contempt for raising taxes in the middle of a recession, only those whom benefitted, were those on the median income level and above.. The majority of workers just got poorer.
All that aside, if you examine how NZ families predominately existed on one income post WW2 and until around 1970's, they nearly all had one thing in common and that was a veggie garden. Nowadays, veggie gardens are rare, and I use this as an example of why economies do well where true poverty exists, where poverty is the mother of invention, not necessity.

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There seems to be some sort of view prevalent that poverty needs to be absolute and of the scale seen in the slums of India or famine-stricken regions of Africa before it's worthy of our attention.

I worked in slum-based poverty alleviation work in the third world for a number of years.

What the above sort of viewpoint misses is that we see many of the same sort of social and behavioural issues in the relative slums of Auckland that we see in the absolute slums of Calcutta, Manila or Lagos. There is a lot more in common between relative poverty in NZ and absolute poverty overseas than many think.

I believe I've fulfilled your above criteria of getting out and seeing the world more (and getting my hands dirty in anti-poverty work!) much more than most.

We need to take relative poverty in New Zealand seriously, rather than being dismissive because poor kids here can eat a little bit more and more often than poor kids in third world countries. Money alone is not the answer, but neither is Key's wrongheaded and silly summation of the causes of poverty in NZ.

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"Blunder #3: People are on benefits because of drugs

The Prime Minister didn't say that. Either you are deliberately lying to further an anti-Key agenda, stupid or just plain lazy.

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Geoff is a good example of why economists in this country are regarded with scepticism Not rocket science don't work ,have children=poverty

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Read the blog - the majority of children in poverty are in working households. Perhaps you should treat your own thinking with some more scepticism.

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Kevin is a good example of why commentators in this country are regarded with scepticism. It's not rocket science, if you want people to be able to understand your posts and take you seriously, use punctuation.
Secondly, it would be great if the solution were that simple, however, you seem to be completely disregarding the fact there is more than one cause of poverty. It is human nature to forget anything that cintradict your world view and repeat things that strengthen it but that doesn't help in the discussion of serious issues like poverty. It only helps with narrow minded, bigoted ideas that are detached from reality.

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In Auckland rent increases are causing more child poverty than reckless breeding and a low paid job doesn't help. This Govts inaction on restraining property prices and therefore rents has a lot to answer for.

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Get out of Auckland. There are plenty of wonderful places to live at a fraction of the costs in Auckland. Smaller towns with great communities and support.
If that is still too tough shift to smaller country towns with lower cost structures again. Much cheaper houses, little crime, no conjestion and a neighbour who cares about you.

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"If that is still too tough shift to smaller country towns with lower cost structures again. Much cheaper houses, little crime, no conjestion [sic] and a neighbour who cares about you."

You left out '...no industry, no jobs, no economies of scale to take advantage of (e.g. buying groceries), no healthcare, no support from family...'

And that's before I get started on relocation costs - especially if you end up relocating twice (when you get a job back in the big smoke).

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You clearly have not grown up in a decile 1 area.....

I agree that a lot of beneficiaries are there through no fault of their own. There are just as many that are at fault partially or fully for their situation. Whether that is through over breeding or another type of habit....and lets not forget laziness/being useless and having an over bearing sense of entitlement.

I'm happy to pay more tax to help those who are there through no fault of their own and those that genuinely try to dig themselves out of the beneficiary trap but the rest can go jump as far as I am concerned. As long as you can ensure none of my taxes will go to the second group...oh but you can't....no one can

You can keep looking at beneficiaries through rose tinted glasses but the harsh reality is the easier you make it to survive on a benefit the latter group will flourish on it and grow in numbers and become even more reliant on taxpayers.

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Actually I grew up in Okaihau, one of the poorest towns in New Zealand.

There are always people that abuse the system but the stats show they are the minority.

Oh wait, your anecdotes trump the stats any day. As you were...

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Okaihau school is a decile 4 so not the poor area you are trying to say you grew up in. Just because you live in ponsonby now doesn't make the area you grew up in poorer than it was.

As you were......

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In Auckland rent increases are causing more child poverty than reckless breeding and a low paid job doesn't help. This Govts inaction on restraining property prices and therefore rents has a lot to answer for.

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The discourse now, if your hadn't noticed, is to look at the whole of society and the distribution of wealth if you want to understand poverty in and its underlying causes in our society. Since so much of the wealth is now controlled by so few, it is the behaviour and decisions of the wealthy that determine what happens to those at the bottom of the heap. Therefore, it makes no sense to put the poor under the microscope and somewhat find out how they are the authors of their own misfortune.

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The problem with this piece is it repeats the nonsense that living on or below 60% of medium income is poverty.

It isn't. When people repeat this nonsense they damage their credibility. This doesn't mean poverty isn't an issue but wby fudge the truth?

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Median, not medi UM. Quite a big difference statistically speaking.

I agree there is no perfect measure. A bundle of measures are needed, but all serious commentators agree that we have child poverty, and that it has risen sharply over the past few decades.

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Geoff, a good article and thought provoking. I have done my time in poor areas of Auckland and am convinced that much child poverty is down to parental abuse of alcohol, stupid decisions & fecklessness. I think I have a solution to unwanted children though. Every woman that receives any benefit must get a depo provera shot. That lasts a while. If they want to have kids they go off the DP & no DPB . I bet that would have an immediate impact. And make the DPB REDUCE for every additional kid. And if you can't/won't name the father then no $.

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DPB - This benefit stopped on 14 July 2013 with people who were getting this benefit transferring to either Sole Parent Support or Jobseeker Support depending on the age of their youngest child.

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Forgive my typo but my point remains.

The whole debate is founded on sophistry. What is being measured is inequality re-labeled as poverty.

The fact is we live in a very generous welfare state and the biggest issue facing the relatively poor is obesity.

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Excellent article....so much blame is heaped on our less fortunate....it is so refreshing to see some truth at last..

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Having lived around South East Asia for the last 7 years where welfare is almost non-existent its almost hard to believe the contrast in NZ. Im certainly not against help and compassion to our fellow man but welfare is often a cleverly designed way to win elections. Every time we give a handout we slowly destroy that persons ability to be independent, personally responsible with their decisions and survive on their own wits.Its like government now has control of their lives using other peoples money of course.

WFF is a classic destroyer. A pure election bribe. Now people who can work chose to not work or work less to remain within the criteria. The people of SEA die laughing at the stupidity of this policy.
We have policy that enhances marriage breaks, a deadly smacking bill, welfare to16 year olds who are able to attack their mothers desperate to provide behaviour guidance. On and on.
There is no easy solution but constant wealth distribution will certainly not help. It just moves the common denominator down lower.
The asian families are far stronger, resiliant and responsible. The family is the welfare unit, not the Government. The wisdom and life experience of the Grandma is cleverly utilised. Any mis-behaviour is met by the family wrath. There is far more respect and dignity between men and women enhanced by the fact and realisation that life is tough going and no-one else owes them anything.
These countries have huge populations and their ways are often vastly superior to ours. They remind us that there are other ways to do things.
We fight for our democracy but the policies that win elections tend to enhance the very behaviour we are trying to escape from.

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I struggle to believe the seven year figure, as this is a rose tinted view of South East Asia common to westerners early in the residency cycle. The reality in South East Asia is much more brutal and exploitative than it first appears.

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Can I remind some of the commentators here that the majority of child poverty in NZ is in families were the parents have paid employment. So quit the beneficiaries bashing and stay on topic!

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Not all beneficiaries are unemployed.

A lot of the money the government gives to working beneficiaries is in the form of working for families etc. Do you not consider this to be a benefit?

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The volume of skilled and semi skilled people imported into this country speaks volumes as to how bad our social welfare is to the majority who receive it

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Key never lets the truth get in the way of his ideology. His own mother was on a benefit, you would think he could at least remember his own childhood?

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Maybe that is why JK increased the benefits do dramatically
Poor decisions contribute largely to poverty whilst some beyond control
It was worse under Helen Clark

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Again another silly contribution that puts the blame for poverty on the poor themselves. In our increasingly unequal society it is the radical upward redistribution of wealth to a small, mostly untaxed elite that is the fundamental problem. Reforms are needed to address corporate welfare and policies that encourage unproductive investments and property bubbles.

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If there's one thing I've learned that's consistent about this government it's that anything bad is the fault of the previous government, despite National having had over 7 years in power already.

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Another silly article from the Morgan Lefty lobbyists. When I had my children we were definitely in poverty on this criteria. We were living on student incomes in a little flat, first here then in Canada. But we were only poor financially and temporarily till we qualified and got professional jobs.

It is permanent poverty due to what is in your head not your pocket that matters. Then you pass it on to your children. I wrote about it here: http://yournz.org/2015/12/16/poverty-is-a-state-of-mind/

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Increased poverty, why am I not surprised. Decades of welfare where we constantly reward failure and irresponsible decision making. Over half our population on some sort of transfer. Policy to win elections at all cost.

Lets start with WFF, Paid Parental Leave, Community card and Gold Card. Gone and the administration that goes with it?

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Will somebody PLEASE read the royal commission on social policy
Please!

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Not normally JK fan, I was grateful he pointed out the drug problem. The HR people I know mention it a lot.

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And yet only 22 positive drug tests from 8,000 beneficiaries tested? Look for data, not anecdotes.

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I think John Key is perfectly right!

When I first came to this country 15 years ago, I only had a dream (to give my children a better future) and US$2,000. My wife and I worked while studying. We worked our asses off for three years. We now own 3 properties all in good area.

IMHO, some kiwis are lazy - there are money on the ground, they won't pick it up as they wait for people to put the money in their hand.

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In an article about poverty, not one word about the main contributors to poverty?

Age - your 20 year old self is typically less wealthy than your 50 year old self and given the median age in NZ is 38, a significant number of people are "poor" for no other reason than their age;

Marital status - divorce will make you poor;

Family composition - having children you can't afford will make you poor;

Education - leaving school without the basics will hold you back;

and Dependencies (alcohol or other) limits self-motivation.

And which of these arise as a result of government policy? None. And yet the only debate the left seem to tolerate is how much money to provide. And all that does is distract us from the real debate - how to provide a decent living to those who truly need it, and the policies required to make people be more responsible for their own decisions.

Some examples?

No benefits to under 25 - they remain their parents responsibility. Bring back apprenticeship schemes.

Youth pregnancy (under 25) - the families (of both, including parents and siblings older than 18) provide the first $250 or whatever a week. In fact, apply this policy to all benefits - have extended families be the first port of call, rather than government. Watch expectations change overnight.

Co-locate at decile 1-5 schools a community constable, medical centre, dental practice, welfare office and truancy officer. Share data and identify the families in need, as soon as they get into need.

Compulsory insurance for loss of income arising from separation, death of spouse etc.

Lots of others - and many uncomfortable because they involve making people responsible for their actions, but its time for an honest debate about the causes of poverty, rather than just providing more money.

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There are degrees of poverty and it is not until you go abroad where you witness abject poverty and put poverty here into context, no matter how "poor" some families are in Aotearoa there is always funds for ciggies, booze and sky.

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Sigh! Again, I rest my case...

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You haven't made a case, merely expressed your prejudice. I suggest you learn the difference.

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My point was that the right commentators focus on victim blame, as in this case (#24). The comment re ciggies, booze and sky is where the prejudice lies. Suggest you pay more attention!

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I suggest you read the article I linked to and comment instead on the substantial issues behind poverty rather than statistical fantasies.

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I worked for a government agency for many years and Jebson Place was considered as one of the worst streets in Hamilton by my department, even now if you look at Google street map you will see a sky dish on every dilapidated house in this street, from my experience the choices made by the adults in the situations we encountered were responsible for the plight of the many children that we often found suffered due to living in "poverty", to paint a different picture and make this purely an economic issue is simply inaccurate

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I worked in poverty alleviation in slums in a third world country.

In depth exposure to it and the issues it creates also taught me that relative poverty in New Zealand involves many similar issues, and is something we do need to address.

Maybe if I'd just seen the odd slum from a taxi and walked past the odd beggar or two I'd feel more like other commenters here, that absolute poverty is the only poverty that matters and that NZ's "poor" don't know how lucky they are.

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The definition of 'poverty' as a measure of those earning below a certain percentage of the mean wage is highly suspect. If the incomes of all New Zealanders were to quadruple the 'poverty' statistic would still remain the same. The statistic is a measure of inequality, not poverty, and is a conjob perpetuated by the political left.

Have a look at some of these people that are supposed to be living in 'poverty' and are begging on the street, and observe how obese they are. Even the ones that aren't fat don't look like they're underfed. I don't think the political left in NZ would know what 'poverty' was if it bit them. 'Poverty' in NZ appears to be more along the lines of whether a family can afford a playstation or not.

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Okay so this article is written by someone who doesnt know the whole story either.
For a start JK was raised not as a rich kid back in the 50s/60s by a solo mum.
As far as many of the families who are living in "poverty",does the article writer realise that many of them are not NZ born,and that many are also church goers whos religious leaders expect them to pay a high percentage of their wages/benefits to the church as well as sending money back to their homeland,thereby leaving them destitute here while we the taxpayers have to pick up the slack?
Yes thats what happens,and if he took the time to check out these facts,hed also realise that if the church leaders of these people didnt BS them with the fear of making God angry if they didnt pay up,and in so doing also embarrass them in front of other church members,that there would be fewer living in so called "poverty!"
How do I know this?First hand knowledge!
There are also parents whp leave their kids sitting in carparks while they are in the pub drinking,playing pokies,other forms of gambling,and yes,druh takers too.
You kick those peoples butts in to not doing these things and the amount living in poverty will drop enormously!

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I was long term unemployed as a teenager. Life was pretty tough for me. Both drugs and bad decisions were involved but regardless of how i got there... there sorta sucked. Now Im a scientist/engineer leading an engineering group in one of the mega science projects of the early 21st century. Live in the US (obviously not NZ where government spending on science is a joke). Put myself through school, got a PhD eventually.

I got kicked off the dole as a 16 yo (at which time I'd been homeless for about a year) for, among other reasons, putting Rocket Scientist and Brain Surgeon as my two preferred employments on my job seeker form at the Labour Department.

My point is now I'm in the same bracket... one of the best in the world at what I do. If I didnt have welfare support at thst critical time in my life (late 80s) I might not have made it. My message to young people today is to find something they're passionate about and bring it into their life. My message to these 'haves' who sit back in comfort knocking the 'have nots' would be to grow an effing heart... would be my nessage if I was inclined to waste my breath...

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The problem with your "have a heart" argument is that the feckless take advantage. I doubt many New Zealanders actually want zero welfare to those truly in need. The problem is differentiating those in need from those who are essentially lazy, selfish, jealous and arrogant, and who view the world as owing them a living.

Good on you for your success but in my view you should never have been on the dole at 16. If that choice had not been available to you you'd have had little choice but to get into further education, get a job, or simply continued being the responsibility of your parents. Why should taxpayers have been your first port of call? And sadly, for every one of you who gets out of the dole trap, there are probably 10 that don't. And therein lies the problem.

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That's a fantastic achievement, Andrew, well done! I hope you enjoy a great career and a rewarding life in the United States - where your talents will, sadly, be appreciated more than they are here. But don't forget about us down here though, eh?

For all its faults, New Zealand does have a comprehensive welfare system to support those in need such as yourself so we don't have the abject poverty of the type found elsewhere and people are given the space and time to make better choices for themselves and their lives. But at the end of the day it is still down to them to reach out, go for something better, and to make it happen, just as you have demonstrated.

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One thing I can assure you of, if your circumstances in life had been different, you would not have followed the path that you did and achieved the success that you have. Life is like that. Good luck to you.

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Interesting comments so far. Poverty is caused by a large variety of factors- GST, Corporate greed, zero hour contracts, cheaper labour being brought in, drugs, alcohol & gambling. Broken families, and benefits in all forms.
I have seen it first hand. Beneficiaries get more on the benefit & get more community support when they don't work. Where is the motivation to work. Where is the work when they are replaced by immigrants.
If we handed out less & gave more in education it may help. As a young mother who brought up her child, went to uni while working full time & then became a socially responsible landlord of three insulated homes whilst running a business I believe it is up to each of us to do our bit for society. But not with handouts- guiding people to the right way of living & contributing to society.

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Geoff,

Is the measurement of poverty inclusive of transfers such as working for families or other benefits? I suspect it is exclusive as these stats are typically collated for international comparison, which incidentally, is one of the major flaws in the Piketty argument. Not that the left would ever acknowledge it.

If so, it renders your argument a bit moot. For starters, it calls into question the whole definition of poverty in the first place, and second, it ignores government policies designed to ameliorate it.

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Some good points raised here

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Jobs all gone to China due to Free Trade policies; rich Chinese move here with our money; buy our houses then employ us on Chinese wages.... Seems obvious we will now live like the Chinese.

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When trying to solve the question of poverty, a "measurement" is slmost always useless. You can give two identical families identical incomes and one will live in poverty and the other will improve their lot. What is more important is the prevailing attitude. The family with the right attitude will live within their means and improve their 'lot' which includes both income and how they spend their money and the family with the wrong atitude will either get deeper in debt or wallow in 'poverty'. It is atitude, not gifts of money that will change their lot.

Ignoring advice to take responsibility for ones own lot, is ignoring the real gifts to getting out of poverty. Such advice on this blog is not uncaring or lacking empathy, but comes from those who know the only way out debt is a change in atitude.

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Now get this. John key says 305,000 children in NZ are going to bed hungry each night because their parents are on drugs.

John Key also says He is bringing in more and more immigrants to work because KIWIs are on DRUGS.

He also said Blamed homeless because they are on DRUGS.

So drugged up Kiwis is his excuse to make us all unemployed and not get a dole because your supposedly on DRUGS. 22 out of 8000 when 305,000 children hear their parents are drug addicts and spending the family money making these children think he is right when he is TOTALLY wrong and should STAND DOWN for blaming DRUGS.

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