Home > A Little Blue Marble Called Earth, Dollars & Sense, Social Issues, The Body Politic > Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Inequality & Poverty

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give the rich tax cuts

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The rhetoric:

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.

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Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work. ”- John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: IBID

When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were.  We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.

Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation.  We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.

But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask?  Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four? 

It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less.  You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job.  No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22.  Why is the Government?

This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is. 

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So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.

The list goes on and on.  The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism.

We don’t need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What’s needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.” – John Key,  27 Aug 2011

See:  ‘Socialist streak’ just means we have a heart, says Key

The results:

Interestingly, whilst Key’s 2008 speech (A Fresh Start for New Zealand) started off describing New Zealand’s growing underclass, National’s Dear Leader went on to describe a series of punitive actions that his Administration would undertake, if elected to power.

The following sub-headings in Key’s speech are illuminating,

  • Youth Plan (education, youth crime)
  • Youth Guarantee (education, training, universal educational entitlement, threat of benefit sanctions)
  • Youth Justice (extending Youth Court; tougher sentences for youth offenders; new Youth Court orders)
  • New powers for the Youth Court
  • First, the power to issue parenting orders.
  • Secondly, the power to refer young offenders to mentoring programmes.
  • Thirdly, the power to refer young offenders to compulsory drug or alcohol rehabilitation programmes.
  • Tougher sentences
  • The first is longer residential sentences.
  • In addition, National will fund a new type of programme for teenagers who aren’t bad enough to be put in a youth justice facility but who need a serious dose of intervention.
  • National will fund a new range of revolutionary ‘Fresh Start Programmes’. (boot camps)
  • Finally, we think the Youth Court needs better teeth for following up serious youth offenders when they are released back into the community.

This was John Key’s “vision” of a “Fresh Start for New Zealand”; more punitive action against youth offenders – but precious little to address the root causes of youth crime; poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, worsening health, lack of training and apprenticeships, etc, etc, etc.

Key’s “solution” was to treat the symptoms of this country’s growing underclass.

So it should be hardly any surprise that those symptoms worsened, and the underclass; prison population; domestic violence; hungry children; poor housing – all grew.

The truly unbelievable aspect to Key’s shonkey speech in 2008 was how comprehensively New Zealand voters sucked it up, en masse.  (We seriously need to introduce comprehensive  Civics courses in our schools, to teach young New Zealanders how to recognise and deconstruct political BS.)

Tax cuts:

Whichever way we look at it, New Zealand in the last four years has become a more unequal society, and with growing poverty.

The first causal factor was the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts, which gave the most to the highest income earners and most wealthy New Zealanders,

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tax-cuts-april-2009

Source

Additional info

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When, on 1 April 2009,  then-Maori Party MP, Rahui Katene asked John Key in Parliament,

How do low-income New Zealanders benefit from the tax changes introduced today?”

Dear Leader replied,

They benefit because 630,000 New Zealanders—the New Zealanders who do not have children and who have been relatively low-income New Zealanders, and who got absolutely nothing under the previous Labour Government for 9 years—get $10 a week, or $500 a year. It is a small start, and it will be welcomed.”

See: TheyWorkForYou Blog – Tax Cuts—Implementation

At least Key wasn’t bullshitting us this time; for those on minimum wage up to  it was indeed small. Someone on $100,000 would receive two and a half times more than someone on minimum wage.

The following year’s October tax cuts were hardly better – but this time the rate of GST was increased from 12.5% to 15%,

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Budget 2010 - What the tax cuts mean for you

Source

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The impact on low-income families – along with increased costs for medicines (see:  Prescription charges to increase), and other user-pays government fees – would be harsh.

Contrary to the NZ Herald’s claim above, the average earner would not be “better off”. The $15 a week “extra” would be quickly swallowed up in rising government charges; medicine prescriptions; increased petrol taxes; and the flow-on inflationary effects throughout the economy.

This was not a “tax switch” – it was a tax-swindle – with the richest making the biggest gains.

Interestingly, ACT’s Roger Douglas – commenting on the 2009 tax cuts – realised that National was having to borrow heavily to finance said tax-cuts,

Does the Prime Minister agree with Professor Eric Leeper’s statement in the latest Reserve Bank Bulletin that counter-cyclical fiscal policy could actually be counter-productive; if not, why not; if yes, why, then, is he borrowing $1 billion plus interest a year in order to give tax relief of $1 billion?” – Roger Douglas, 1 April 2009

So much for National’s promises in 2008,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

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This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.”

See: National – Tax Policy

Salvation Army Report: The Growing Divide – A state of the Nation Report 2012

This document by the Salvation Army is one of the most insightful and far-reaching analyses of current economic stagnation; political factors; and related social problems. It pulls no punches.

This blogger encourages people to read the Report (it’s written in plain english; very little jargon; and contains excellent data, with references). It should be put into the letterboxes of every home in this country. Click here to link to the report.

[NB: The report was written at a time when unemployment was at 6.3%. Since then it has increased three consecutive Quarters to the current 7.3% (see: Unemployment January 2012 to November 2012.]

Amongst the Report’s findings,

1. Inflation, higher prices, increased GST, raised indirect taxes (eg, fuel taxes), and government charges, have off-set the tax cuts of October 2010.

2. If New Zealand is to return to the historically low rate of unemployment of 3.8% in December 2006, (from the then-figure of 6.3%), we would require  90,000 jobs, in on top of  25,000 to 30,000 jobs required each and every year just to keep up with the growth of the labour force. The figure of 90,000 will have increased as unemployment now stands at 7.3%.

3. The rapid growth in the labour force participation rate of people aged 65+ (from 14.1% in December 2006, to 19.5% in December 2011)  has been at the expense of  falling employment participation of young people in the 15 – 19 year old age group.

Those in the 15 – 19 year old age group, the Report states, have “borne the brunt of the recession and tightening of the job market”. Unemployment for this group rose from 14.3% in December 2006, to  24.2% in December 2011.

It is also this group targetted by National’s harsh “welfare reforms”, which attempts to blame young people as “work shy” – a ‘double whammy’ from the Global Financial Crisis and a right wing government keen to shift blame for rising  unemployment onto powerless victims of the Recession.

4. The numbers of welfare recipients receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit has also been affected by the Global Financial Crisis and resultant Great Recession. DPB recipients dropped from a peak of approximately 111,000 in late 2003, to 96,000 in mid 2008. Since 2008, and as redundancies increased; unemployment rose; and jobs disappeared, the number reversed. DPB recipients skyrocketed to an all time record of 114,230 benefits by December 2011.

Far from being “bene bludgers” opting for the DPB as a “lifestyle choice”  (which is constantly parrotted by ill-informed conservatives and low information voters), solo-parents are as vulnerable to recessionary forces as other  workers.

5. In the year to December 2011,  average weekly earnings rose a only 2.6% from $991.05 to $1016.95. Taking annual inflation of 1.8% into account, weekly earnings rose  by a fractional 0.8%. With increases in rent, fuel tax, and other government charges, that increase will have vanished altogether.

6. The Report gave as an example of unequal wage increases the difference between hourly earnings in the finance sector increasing by $1.01 per hour, from $36.63 per hour in June 2011 to $37.64 in December 2011.

By contrast, the average wage in the traditionally poorly paid accommodation sector increased by only 3 cents an hour from $16.40 to $16.43 per hour.This was a clear illustration of  the average hourly earnings of the highest paid sector increasing 2.3 times more than those for lower paid workers.

7. Most of the increase in State benefit payments  over the past five years was made as  higher spending on New Zealand Superannuation (43% of the increase) and  Working for Families (37% of the increase). Approximately 568,000 people were receiving superannuation by June 2011.

This compared to 319,000 of other welfare recipents as at December 2011 – up  from 264,500 from December 2006. Welfare numbers were dependent on the economy and increased only because of the impact by the GFC-caused Recession.

8. Food parcels issued to families and people in need doubled from 24,250 in 2006, to 53,360 in 2011. Again, this was in accordance with the advent of the GFC in 2007/08; skyrocketting unemployment; and a lack of job-creation policies by National, once it won the election in late 2008. (John Key admitted to this on 18 October 2011.  See: Key admits underclass still growing)

9. Inflation of living costs for  2011 was fractionally higher for Low-Income Household CPI at 2.1% than it was for the All Groups CPIs, at 1.8%. Low-Income Households were more vulnerable to increasing costs such as rent, government charges, and gst increases.

10. The Report correctly predicted  that levels of unemployment would rise during 2012, and would negatively impact on growth in wages and salaries of poorest paid workers.

For a full understanding the the Report, it is recommended that people read the document in it’s entirety, as I have  abridged and condensed much of the information contained therein.

The Report reinforces anecdotal evidence, facts, and  stats, that are already in wide circulation and confirms that jobs, incomes, and those receiving social welfare assistance are all affected by the global downturn over the last four to five years.

After all, John Key uses that very excuse to explain away National’s poor economic performance,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis... ” – John Key, 11 Sept 2011

See: View from the top

Ministry of Social Development: The widening gap: perceptions of poverty and income inequalities and implications for health and social outcomes

In New Zealand, income inequalities have increased since the neo-liberal reforms and benefit cuts of the late 1980s and 1990s, although the rate has slowed this decade (Blakely et al. 2007, Ministry of Social Development 2006, Ministry of Social Development 2007). The New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report showed a million New Zealanders living in some degree of hardship, with a quarter of these in severe hardship. Despite the buoyant economy and falls in unemployment levels, not only was there a slight increase in the overall percentage of those living in poverty between 2000 and 2004, but those with the most restricted living standards had slipped deeper into poverty (poverty defined as exclusion from the minimum acceptable way of life in one’s own society because of inadequate resources) (Ministry of Social Development 2006, 2007).

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This greater income inequality has seen New Zealand move into 18th place out of 25 in the OECD in terms of income inequality from 1982 to 2004 (Ministry of Social Development 2007). Over the preceding two decades New Zealand experienced the largest growth in inequalities in the OECD (2000 figures), moving from two Gini coefficient points below the OECD average to three Gini points above (Ministry of Social Development 2007:45-46). One indication of the impact of these inequalities has been that relative poverty rates, including child poverty rates, have increased.

Source: MSD

OECD: Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it ?

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Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average (Table 1). In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average. In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

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Source: OECD

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At present, across OECD countries, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%. While this ratio is much lower in the Nordic countries and in many continental European countries, it rises to around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States, to a high of 27 to 1 in Chile and Mexico. The Gini coefficient, a standard measure of income inequality that ranges from zero (when everybody has identical incomes) to 1 (when all income goes to only one person), stood at 0.28 in the mid-1980s on average in OECD countries; by the late 2000s, it had increased by some 10%, to 0.31. On this measure, income inequality increased in 17 out of the 22 OECD countries for which data are available (Figure 1, left-hand panel). In Finland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the Gini coefficient increased by more than 4 percentage points: and only five countries recorded drops, albeit small ones .

Source:  IBID

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[See also Addendum 2 below.]

So it’s official – the Great Experiment in free market reforms from the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, has produced growing inequality here in New Zealand. Indeed, the trend has been global,

Income inequality followed different patterns across OECD countries and there are signs that levels may be converging at a common and higher average. Inequality first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States, followed by a more widespread increase from the late 1980s on. The most recent trends show a widening gap between poor and rich in some of the already high-inequality countries, such as Israel and the United States. But countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which have traditionally had low inequality, are no longer spared from the rising inequality trend: in fact, inequality grew more in these three countries than anywhere else during the past decade. However, some countries recorded declining income inequality recently, often from high levels (Chile, Mexico and Turkey).

Source:  IBID

It is no coincidence that the trends “first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States” – that is the precise period when Margaret Thatcher won office in May 1979 and Ronald Reagan became US president in January 1981.

Our turn came three years later with the Lange/Douglas government that ushered in “Rogernomnics“.

The OECD report above is simply being ‘coy’ by not connecting-the-dots.

What is more telling? Any person reading this would not be surprised. We have become innured to an unfair economic system which produces unequal outcomes and great disparities in incomes and wealth. As the OECD report states with alarmingly candour,

Increases in household income inequality have been largely driven by changes in the distribution of wages and salaries which account for 75% of household incomes of working-age adults. With very few exceptions (France, Japan and Spain), wages of the 10% best-paid workers have risen relative to those of the 10% least-paid workers. This was due both to growing earnings’ shares at the top and declining shares at the bottom, but top earners saw their incomes rising particularly sharply (Atkinson, 2009). The highest 10% of earners have been leaving the middle earners behind more rapidly than the lowest earners have been drifting away from the middle.

Source:  IBID

Furthermore, as the OECD report points out, “…more working hours were lost among low-wage than among high-wage earners, again contributing to increasing earnings inequality“.

The OECD report is backed up by Statistics New Zealand,

As with total employment, the drop in full-time employment mainly reflected a decrease in male
full-time employment, which was down 12,000 (down 1.2 percent).
Usual hours worked decreased 0.4 percent – down to 79.6 million hours over the quarter. The
changes in full and part-time employment reflect the fall in the number of hours people usually
work during a week. Over the quarter, the number of hours people actually worked decreased
0.8 percent, down to 73.2 million hours.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Ministry of Social Development – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Whilst New Zealand has no formal or official measure of poverty or material hardship/deprivation, there are studies and conclusions leading to reports that offer a disquieting insight into the state of income inequality, poverty, and child poverty in our country.

One  such report was conducted by Bryan Perry for the Ministry of Social Development in August 2012, entitled the “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011″ – a 195 page study.

The full report is available here: MSD – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

A much-condensed precis of the Report;

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2012 MSD Household Incomes Report ‘Summary’

  1. Household incomes BHC (before deducting housing costs) rose in real terms for all income groups from 2007 to 2009, continuing the steady growth that began in 1994,
  2. Income inequality increased significantly between 1988 to 2004, then fell from 2004 to 2007 as a result of the WFF package, and was still around the same level in 2009 as in 2007,
  3. Income inequality grew very rapidly from 1988 to 1992, followed by a slower but steady rise through to 2004,
  4. From 2004 to 2007 inequality fell mainly as a result of the WFF package,
  5. Median Household  incomes fell 3% in real terms after little change (+1%) from HES 2009 to HES 2010,
  6. This fall followed a long and strong rise in the median from the mid 1990s to 2008-09 averaging 3% pa in real terms. GDP per capita increased at 2.5% pa over this period on averagwe,
  7. Incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially,
  8. At the very bottom (P15 down), incomes were flat from HES 2010 to HES 2011 (protected by benefit rates being CPI adjusted and NZS being wage related),
  9. Inequality decreased significantly from HES 2009 to HES 2010 then rose from HES 2010 to HES 2011 to its highest level ever. This volatility reflects the impact of the GFC,
  10. On the AHC (HouseHold income after deducting housing costs) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high  ‘outgoings-to-income’  (OTIs),
  11. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  12. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 children (22%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001,
  13. Hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011 using the ELSI measure. In part, this reflects the falling incomes of those in deciles 3-6, some of whom may already have been in a precarious financial position – the loss of income has been enough to tip them into hardship even though their incomes are still above the poverty threshold,
  14. Chronic poverty (as defined in the Incomes Report) is about having an average household income over seven years that is below the poverty threshold over those years. Looking at children in poverty in a HES survey (cross-sectional), 60% of them are in chronic poverty in any survey and 40% in temporary poverty. In addition there are others who are in chronic poverty but not in current poverty in that one year – this group is about 20% of the number in current poverty.
  15. In 2009, between 460,000 and 780,000 people were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’),
  16. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  17. In 2009, just over one in three poor children were from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment, down from around one in two before Working for Families (2004),
  18. Income poverty rates for single person working-age households trebled from the 1980s to 2007 (10% to 30%) and were 35% in 2011. One in 9 poor people and 1 in 4 poor households are from this group. The rates are higher for the older group living on their own (45-64 years) than for the younger group,
  19. In 2001, 42% of households in the lowest income quintile had high ‘outgoings-to-income’, but this fell to 34% by 2004 reflecting the introduction of income-related rents, and has remained steady since then (33% in 2009),
  20. In 2009, 37% of children lived in households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’, a rise from 32% in 2007, and 26% in 2004 – the 2004 figure was the lowest proportion for some time, following the introduction of income-related rents in 2001 (when the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ was 32%),
  21. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  22. The child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  23. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  24. Just over two of every three two parent families were dual earner families in 2009, up from one in two in the early 1980s, but down from nearly three in four in 2004,
  25. Children in sole parent families have a higher risk of hardship (46%) than those in two parent families (14%). This reflects the relatively low full-time employment rate for sole parents (35% in 2009) –  73% of sole parents were in receipt of a main benefit in 2009,
  26. The value of New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) fell further below the median household income from 2007 to 2009,
  27. People living in sole parent households are a relatively small subgroup, making up only 8% of the population.    Only 3% of those in sole parent households are found in the top income quintile.  On the other hand, a high proportion have incomes in the lower end of the income distribution.
  28. High housing costs relative to income are often associated with financial stress for low to middle income households.  Low-income households especially can be left with insufficient income to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education,
  29. For the bottom quintile, the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ reduced from 2001 to 2004 with the introduction of income related rents, then remained steady in 2007 and 2009 at the 2004 level.1   For all but the bottom quintile, the proportion with high housing costs rose strongly from 2004 to 2007.  From 2007 to 2009, the situation for the second quintile continued to worsen, such that by 2009, each of the two lower quintiles had one in three households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  30. From 2007 to 2009, median household incomes (BHC – HH income before deducting housing costs) rose by 4.3% pa in real terms (8.6% in total).  This continues the steady growth in the median from the low point in 1994.  The AHC (HH income after deducting housing costs) median rose less rapidly (3.2% pa), reflecting the relatively rapid rise in average accommodationcosts,
  31. The increasing dispersion of household incomes from the 1980s through to 2009 is clear. For the period as a whole, incomes for households above the median increased proportionately much more than did the incomes of households in the lower three deciles Real equivalised household incomes (BHC) decile boundaries, 1982 to 2009   .
  32. In 2009 the incomes of the bottom 30% of the population were on average only a little better in real terms than those of their counterparts two decades earlier in 1988. On the other hand there were more substantial gains in the period for the top half of the distribution. The income distribution is therefore much more dispersed in 2009 than in 1988,    Real equivalised household incomes (AHC) decile boundaries (2009 dollars)  .

  33. The most significant structural change to the income distribution over the two decades from 1984 to 2004  is a significant hollowing out of the middle parts of the distribution from $12,000 to $30,000 (equivalised) and a corresponding increase in the proportion of the population in higher income households.  There was also a small increase in the proportion of the population in low-income households in this period.  From 2004 to 2007, the impact of the Working for Families package in that period is very clear for low to middle income households.The income distribution was more dispersed in 2004 than in 1984.  From 2004 to 2007 income inequality decreased.
  34. The significant change in shape of the income distribution from 2004 to 2007 reflects two main factors: (A) the impact of the WFF package on low to middle income households and (B) the reduction in the number of people in households whose main source of income is an income-tested benefit (100,000 fewer in 2007 than in 2004)
  35. As recently as 1996, the government of the time in New Zealand was openly disapproving of any poverty discourse.  However, in 2002, in the context of the Agenda for Children, the government made a commitment to eliminate child poverty, and in the Speech from the Throne in November 2005, the Governor-General described the Working for Families package as “the biggest offensive on child poverty New Zealand has seen for decades”.   The current National-led government, like the previous Labour-led government, espouses the principle that ‘paid work is the best way to reduce child poverty’. New Zealand does not however have an official poverty measure.
  36. The rise in moving line child poverty rates from 1990 to 1992 was driven by two factors: the rise in unemployment, and the 1991 benefit rate cuts which decreased real incomes for beneficiaries by a greater amount than the median fell in the period,
  37. From 1992 to 1998 the 60% of median moving line poverty rate for children fell as unemployment rates fell and incomes for those around the poverty line rose more quickly than the median in the period,
  38. From 1998 the median continued to grow in real terms, but the incomes of many low-income households with children remained fairly static through to 2004.  This meant that the moving line child poverty rate rose to 2004, indicating that low-income households with children were on average further from the median in 2004 than in 1998,
  39. On the After Housing Costs (AHC) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of HouseHolds with children with high OTIs (‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio),
  40. From 2004 to 2007, the poverty rate fell strongly … for the working poor than for the beneficiary poor. There were no further policy changes to housing assistance from 2007 to 2009 – the maximum rates of assistance remained fixed and did not move in line with movements in housing costs, and net housing expenditure rose for low-income households with children.  This is reflected in the rise in child poverty rates from 2007 to 2009 using the moving line AHC approach.

.(Report Note: when a household spends more than 30% of its income on accommodation it is said to have a high “OTI”  –  ‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio)

The above is a heavily condensed version of Bryan Perry’s report. For a full report, please refer to: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

It is fairly clear that income inequality is not only still prevalent – but increasing. The ‘Gini’ does not lie – and the Inequality Factor has risen from 30.2 to 33.5 (the higher the figure, the more inequality).

Child poverty is still with us, and remains  New Zealand’s most critical problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

Despite John Key’s fine words and stirring rhetoric, National has failed to change it’s core “values” and adheres to a dogmatic faith in the Market to deliver solutions to poverty in our country.

Yet, John Key should know precisely what needs to be done. As he told the nation five years ago,

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

The State invested heavily in Mr Key – as it did with many other people prior to the Rogernomics roll-backs of the late 1980s – and New Zealand benefitted accordingly from that social investment.

The social welfare system is designed as a safety net for citizens in time of need. Whether through job losses or injury or raising children single-handed, our society – through the State – demands that no one suffers. (Never mind the deranged ravings of the ill-informed on talkback radio.)

However, there is another role for our welfare society; to guarantee that the young from impoverished and vulnerable families  are accorded the same opportunities that other, luckier parents can provide for their own children.

This is a country of plenty. There is no reason why we cannot eradicate poverty; poor housing; disease; lack of adequate, nourishing food for all children; and low schooling/training outcomes.

The only reasons that this blogger can see for the perpetuation of poverty is a double curse on our country, namely,

  1. An irrational prejudice against the poor
  2. A debilitating lack of will

Until we resolve both of these collective “disabilities” to our vision for a better society, we will continue to reap the rotten fruits of our inaction.

On 28 November 2006, John Key said,

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.”

I see no evidence of that.

Indeed, six years later, Key admitted that the underclass he spoke of has not diminished,

.

Key admits underclass still growing

Full story

.

Addendum 1

It is interesting and worthwhile to compare the rhetoric of John Key’s speech, A Fresh Start for New Zealand, with the data contained in the Salvation Army report, “The Growing Divide“.  Both are worth reading. It rapidly becomes clear how Key cynically mis-represented facts to suit his Party’s election agenda.

Addendum 2

It is worth noting that the GINI Coefficient – which is one method by which to measure income inequality – shows interesting figures for New Zealand,

.

OCED_New Zealand_GINI_coefficient 1970s_late_2000s

Source: OECD Income distribution – Inequality (GINI co-efficient)

A high GINI factor (close to 1 or 100, expressed as a percentage) indicates maximum inequality. A figure at zero indicates absolute income equality.

New Zealand’s GINI Coefficient rose (income became more unequal) from the mid-1980s to around 2000. At the mid-2000s, the GINI Coefficient began to reduce – indicating incomes are becoming less unequal. (Though has not addressed growing poverty in this country.)

What factor intervened in the mid-2000s to stem the rising inequality of incomes?

.

working for families

.

The same policy introduced by the preceding Labour Government,  which Dear Leader, John Key, once described as “communism by stealth”  (see: National accuses Government of communism by stealth) – but  by 2008 had decided that he liked “Working for Families” after all (see:  National to keep Working for Families unchanged).

After 2010, the GINI coefficient begins to rise again, as effects from our stagnating economy and National’s policies begin to over-take the positive income-redistribution aspects of ‘Working for Families’.

Income inequality in New Zealand is once again on the rise,

Gini scores (x100) for market and disposable household income, 1986 to 2011 (18-64 yrs)

HES year

Before taxes and transfers (market income)

After taxes and transfers (disposable income)

Reduction (%)

1986

36.4

26.4

27

1991

42.4

31.3

26

1996

43.1

32.9

24

2001

43.1

33.1

23

2004

41.7

32.9

21

2009

40.3

32.3

20

2010

38.3

30.2

21

2011

42.2

33.5

21

 Source: MSD – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Additional

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

 

.

Inequality and poverty

.

.

=fs =

  1. samwise
    11 January 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Hardly surprising really. Tories have nil sympathy for the poor. Expecting Key and Benett to actually express any empathy with those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder is like waiting for a flying saucer to land on the White House lawn.

    Let’s home that all 175,000 unemployed vote at the next election.

  2. Tracey
    19 March 2014 at 7:22 am

    I am sorry I have only just read this. Great work here Frank.

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