Saturday, April 20, 2013

Babies don't die violently in house-proud families

Nobody clicks on a headline about a baby dying from 'injuries' sustained in a home incident and expects to see a lovingly cared for home. No change this time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Who should be shoulder-tapped for this one?

Something for you to think about.

Who should Judith Collins select for the just-listed ministerially appointed job of Chief Families Commissioner?

Sid Going?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Academia, half-truths and political bias

Should New Zealand Universities be trusted disseminators of balanced information?

The following is a Facts Sheet produced by the University of Waikato. I assume it is intended for use by students and other interested parties. It is available on-line

 The first fact:

Sole Parents
   At the 2006 Census, the median age of New Zealand’s Sole Parents was 42.9

According to MSD, also using 2006 Census data:
Sole mothers tend to be younger than partnered mothers, with a median age of 37 years in 2006, compared to 39 years for mothers in two-parent families. Conversely, sole fathers tend to be a little older than partnered fathers, with a median age of 42 years in 2006, compared to 41 years for fathers in two-parent families.

Why the discrepancy? The MSD report relates to sole parents with dependent children.

It is unclear what definition of sole parent the University has used but later in the sheet we see this claim:

 At the 2006 Census, two thirds of New Zealand’s Sole Parents had been
previously married or in a civil union ....   13 per cent were widowed (median age 63 years)

So not sole parents with dependent children.

Next though is a blatant omission of data resulting in a highly misleading picture:

 The majority of ex-nuptial births are to women aged 30-34 years, followed by
women aged 25-29 years. Rates are lower than they were in 1972 for every
age group except 35-39 and 40-44 years, for whom ex-nuptial births have
increased substantially. 

This leaves the average person with the impression that fewer children are born outside marriage today than was the case in 1972.

Following are the statistics  required to provide a comprehensive understanding:

In 1966 11.56 percent of all births were ex-nuptial
In 2012 47.66 percent of all births were ex-nuptial

So why two seemingly contradictory 'facts'?

Because in 1966 there were far fewer unmarried women.

Take one of the age groups whose rate of ex-nuptial child-bearing has decreased, 25-29 year-olds.

If, in 1966, the ex-nuptial birth-rate was 100 (meaning 100 births per 1,000 unmarried females aged 25-29), and  there were 9,746 unmarried (or never married) females, that would result in 974 births.

If the nuptial birth-rate was also 100 for married females, who numbered 70,726, that would result in 7,072 births.

So the rate of ex-nuptial and nuptial births were the same but ex-nuptial births represented only 12% of all births.

No effort has been made to explain this to a student via this fact sheet.

It's an appalling ommission.

The facts as they are presented on this sheet paint a picture of most sole parents having been married, and ex-nuptial child-bearing on the decline. It is designed to elicit sympathy and political support for sole parents.

(It did occur to me to look for a further sheet but none exists - or not on-line. But this presentation provides a clue to the professor's political leanings where she describes the 2011 budget as being an Oliver Twist budget and calls for more investment in children. Unsurprisingly it's hosted at the Child Poverty Action Group website which brings me full circle. It was a paper by their supervised young scholar that led me to the fact sheet in the first place.)

Under-employment in NZ and internationally

Statistics NZ yesterday announced a new measure of under-employment to be added to existng HLFS labour market measures. 

Underemployment in New Zealand

The underemployment measure identifies people with a job who face a partial lack of work. It is useful to look at the underemployment rate in combination with the unemployment rate; together these two measures provide a more comprehensive view of how much potential labour there is readily available in the labour force. Compared with other OECD countries, New Zealand has a high underemployment rate but a lower unemployment rate.

Women, youth and Maori, and workers in retail and accommodation are the most likely to be under-employed. Under-employment in NZ is comparatively high but look at Australia.

I wonder if the Australian statistic reflects a lack of welfare available for migrants?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Parallel universes

Auckland Action Against Poverty has three activists and Sue Bradford appearing in court tomorrow on trespass charges after protesting last September against the latest welfare reform legislation. Sarah Thompson says:

“These reforms will see ordinary New Zealanders sanctioned, work tested, drug tested and work ability assessed,” says Ms Thompson.


Non-beneficiary "ordinary" New Zealanders also have to take available jobs, experience a cut in income if they don't, pass drug tests where required and negotiate with a medical person over their ability or otherwise to work. That's life. Why would they get outraged about beneficiaries having to live by the same rules?

These pro-welfare activists live in a parallel universe. Or using fashionable vernacular, live on planet-privilege. But that's unkind to the thousands of people on benefits who are not part and parcel of AAAP's particular culture. People who would just really love to have a job to go to tomorrow.

Some context and comment about falling benefit numbers

There's been quite a bit of media coverage about benefit numbers coming down. Of course, any genuine decline is good news. But some context is always useful. Here are the headline numbers for the past five years. The official statistics don't yet include March 2013 which the Minister released at the weekend as 310,146.

First, there is nearly always a drop from December to March for seasonal reasons. The fall from December 2012 (339,095) to March 2013 (310,145) is 8 percent - the same as the drop over the equivalent period 2012/11.

Fortuitously, the chart starts at December 2007. That just happened to be the month when NZ had record low unemployment of 3.3 percent. Is that as good as it gets? Still a quarter of a million people on benefits?

What worries me is that level of dependency has become an accepted feature of the economy. It's like having been in a lot of debt for a long time and feeling like you've achieved something when you wipe just a small amount out. That's how the government is behaving.

It's understandable. They need to make political mileage from the improvement however slight.

But they've finished with their reforms. The Minister says that all she is going to do now is tidy up the Social Security Act legislation which has become incredibly complex and voluminous.

So, no time limits. No decentralisation. No tax-payer opt-out. No attempt to privatise disability or unemployment insurance. Nothing radical.

All we can do now is wait and see what happens to the numbers as Work and Income adopt a more work-focussed approach with some extra legislation to assist them.

De javu. That's what we did when Maharey took charge and changed the DPB, Invalid's and sickness beneficiary approach. Waited and waited....

International:Growing intolerance of supporting single parents long-term

With the help of Linda I've been updating the Welfare Reform website.

Some news on what's happening in the UK and Australia.

Despite a decade of fiddling with reform the UK numbers are fairly stubborn. The recent rise in Job Seeker benefit reflects not only the recession but the fact lone parents with children 5 and older are being transferred onto that benefit:

In Australia single parents with children 8 or older are also being transferred onto their unemployment benefit known as Newstart. That's caused a recent upturn in the statistics:

(In NZ the age of youngest child before transfer remains at 14. Why, I don't know)

Transfers don't get people off welfare but they do indicate a growing intolerance of supporting single parents for long periods as of right. I expect these countries are aiming to get dedicated single parent support down to youngest child ages of 1-3 as in the US and Scandinavian countries.