Friday, February 24, 2012

Fewer births in 2011

In past years I have blogged about the rise in the teenage birth rate.

Now it is falling. NZ Statistics recently released the 2011 (year ended December) birth statistics.

The 2011 birthrate per 1,000 15-19 year-olds has fallen three whole points from 2010.  It was 28.8 (per 1,000 females aged 15-19) in 2010 and has dropped to 25.8 in 2011 - in 2008 it had climbed to 32.8

This is encouraging but I am not sure what is driving it. There was a similar drop from the late 1990s to the early 2000s (and similar numbers).

In 2011 there were rate-drops in every age group as the number of births fell from 63,897 to 61,403.

Changes as big as this do represent some behavioural/thinking change I think. The recession? But during the last recession of the early nineties births peaked. This recession they are falling, with a slight lag:

The steep incline during 2006-08 may have been an effect of WFF. That might be described as an 'artificial' increase resulting in an apparent decline thereafter as 'normal'  behaviour resumed.  Abortions have also fallen and the morning-after pill is now available. There are, of course, other underlying sub-group trends categorised by income, ethnicity, and age.

I do wonder though whether  (the prospect of) tougher welfare conditions is having some effect. Last time National was in government and they talked tough on the DPB, introduced work-testing (in 1998 from memory) there was similar decline in the teenage birthrate.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We live in "sinful and tyrannical" times

"To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tomorrow and Christchurch

Am  I  hard-hearted, or just experiencing a natural reaction to force-fed sentimental voyeurism?

Various media have 'advertised' to me that tomorrow is the anniversary of the February Christchurch earthquake and what their associated publicity ventures will be. How they will track personal outcomes, talk to those who lost loved ones, those who rescued survivors, those who  left Christchurch, those who went to Christchurch...

Sorry. I'm not interested.

Christchurch has gone through a terrible time. Terrible. Many of us have made individual practical demonstrations of our sympathy. Silly slogan-like statements like, "...we haven't forgotten you Christchurch" get on my nerves. If I lived there I would be sick to death of people flying in, telling me how much they empathise, and flying out.

And why agonise on an anniversary anyway?  Real care is ongoing.

The commemoration of tragedy, not confined to Christchurch by any means, is starting to take on a strange religiosity in a largely secular country. Perhaps it fulfils  the same emotional need that collective worship does. Whatever. It is an emotional need  I am obviously devoid of.

How welfare harms children

How welfare harms children is the title of my guest column over at the NZCPR. As Muriel Newman writes it will form the basis of my submission on the Green Paper into child abuse abuse and neglect. The submission process closes on February 28 so if you want to make one and you feel mine reflects your own views feel free to plagiarise. At least that will tell officials that Muriel and I are not alone in believing long-term and inter-generational benefit reliance  damages families and their children.

How welfare harms children 
The matter of children and the benefit system has long concerned me.
It began with the death of Wairarapa toddler Lillybing (Hinewaoriki Karaitiana-Matiaha) in 2000. Had she survived childhood she would have become a teenager in August last year. These missed milestones do not pass unnoticed because my own daughter was born the same month and year as Lillybing. At the time, as the disturbing details of the case became known, the vulnerability of a 23 month-old was very apparent to me. It turned out Lillybing’s caregiver was not only receiving her own benefit, but defrauding Work and Income of a second. That prompted me to begin thinking about the relationship between benefit dependence and child neglect and abuse.

One point about 'poverty'

There is one thing I don't get about poverty being blamed for increased infectious diseases.

A growing "gulf between the rich and poor" is evident in the increasing number of patients hospitalised with infectious diseases, according to the author of a report on the trend.
A study by the University of Otago, Wellington shows hospitalisations from infectious diseases have increased by 51 per cent from 1998 to 2008.
The patients were mainly aged under 5 or more than 70 and from lower socio-economic areas.

We hear a lot about child poverty but it is well-known that New Zealand's elderly are amongst the least-poor in the developed world. There are even implied suggestions from some quarters that the elderly should get less social assistance and the young, more.

Remember the graph I used earlier from the Household Incomes Report:

• In 2010, the 60% AHC fixed line poverty rate for the 65+ age group was 7%, compared with 12% for 45-64 year olds, 15% for 18-44 year olds, and 22% for children (aged 0-17 years). 

• The lower hardship rate for older New Zealanders reflects the mix of universal public provision (mainly NZS) and the private provision built up by most of the current cohort over their lifetime. A key component of this private provision is mortgage-free home ownership which is relatively high among the current cohort.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Doomed to build more prisons

Government agencies are failing the children of Maori prisoners, leaving them traumatised and ill, and creating a new generation of offenders, a report says... "The agencies of health and education do not appear to have the capacity to resolve these problems. The result is that the society is condemned to continual increases in prison numbers, with many tamariki Maori set to populate those additional places."
Yet again, another party is to blame for failing children. The people who fund, administrate and staff the agencies (most of us) are inadequate. It's our fault. More brainless buck-passing that 'victims' buy into.

Everything bar the kitchen sink can be thrown at these families without desired result...but it will still be "societies fault".

Incapacity in the system is only part of the problem. Male prisoners father more children than the general male population. Young Maori father more children. A study released in the NZ Social Policy Journal last year found respondents having a sole Māori cultural identity had odds of early pregnancy and parenthood that were over seven times higher than those of non-Māori...These results were evident for both males and females.

Do the maths. Even if some of the children can be prevented from living like their parents, the odds are the present parameters will increase.

Yes, doubtless we are doomed to build more prisons. But not because good people are failing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another canine companion

Campbell Live ran a story late last year about an ex-animal testing facility which had many Beagles now needing homes. Some were picked up by HUHA and I heard one of their people talking to Sean Plunkett. At the time, I still had my gallery in Eastbourne and couldn't offer a home. But I closed the gallery on the 9th and now have time to put into an extra, possibly very needy dog. We brought Lexie home today and she is a delight. She has obviously only recently whelped and I don't know what happened to those pups but she was a breeder for the facility. Before we decided to take her we took our Huntaway up to meet her. They were fine together and still are far. She's a bit scared of the cats but poses no threat to them. It's early days but she really is a lovely animal. There are still more looking for homes and you can see their details on Trade Me. Here's Doris, who was Lexie's mate, and also a very responsive and affectionate dog.