Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mothers as breadwinners - rapidly changing times

A piece from the NCPA today may be partially reflective of the NZ situation. The US and NZ share the highest percentages of children living in sole parent families. However the employment rate for sole parents in the US is much higher. Roughly 80 versus 50 percent.

In NZ, the Household Incomes Survey tells us that in 1982, 52% of two parent families had one parent in full-time work and the other was workless. Only 20% were both in full-time work. By 2011, 68% of two parent families were dual-earner families with 43% both full-time.

(Theses statistics are contributing heavily to growing household income inequality by the way).

Modern Views on Mothers as Breadwinners

June 21, 2013
A record 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11 percent in 1960.

Friday, June 21, 2013

At Red Roof Gallery

I am now sketching at Red Roof Gallery in Eastbourne, opposite the Four Square, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Drop in and say hello if you're in the vicinity.

Shades of the Wahine storm, which I am old enough to remember

Sam was singing in a band at a school concert last night so we had to go into the city. The drive in was a bit ropey with very poor visibility but not much more than typical wintery Wellington weather. But the drive home around 9.30 was something else.

Torrential rain driving horizontally from the south wasn't a huge problem until we hit the Petone Esplanade. The driver in front of me turned on his emergency lights and slowed and veered - a manhole lid was up and  and sitting at a 60 degree angle. Drove around that. Next one of the centre island road signs was down. From Waione the street lights were gone and even with full beam it was hard to see any distance ahead. A lampost was down on the road in Seaview. Drove around that. As we started into the Bays we got in behind an emergency road vehicle but he pulled over fairly quickly to clear rocks. The road wasn't shut and I hadn't expected it would be having checked the tides earlier. Living in Eastbourne you are always mindful of being cut off with storms and high tides combining. I drove on at about 20-30km. The power was out everywhere. The visual effect of the southerly gales whipping across the surface water on the road ahead was was dramatic. Sam wished she had a camera. I was literally hunched forward over the wheel trying to pick out any flooding or slips ahead.  There was debris everywhere and stuff flying around. Joking about people who drive around the Bays at that speed on perfectly nice days, actually, I just wanted to get home. Even to a house devoid of heat and light. A fire truck was at the bottom of our road as we turned in. Six massive Norfolk Pines along the street seemed to be shedding substantial branches. We arrived safely though I've yet to check out my beloved car which I suspect was hit by some flying object around York Bay.

Robert was rugged up playing piano. What else do you do when there's no power? We have a gas stove top so can boil water but our gas heater can only be started with electricity. Out came the 4 hot water bottles. Sam opened her laptop and put on music. She was still buoyed up from the concert so we had a lovely couple of hours singing and dancing, clutching our hotties. Sam thought it was a treat staying up late. I figured she wouldn't be going very far today. And I was right. The road is now closed. But we aren't cut off. Your only cut off when you can't get home.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Results from "The Vote"

Rather than try and summarise last night's show I'm simply cutting and pasting their press release:

Is the Big Problem Facing Kiwi Kids Poverty Or Parenting? Kiwis Say Parenting the Key Factor on Tv3’s the Vote

Child poverty has become a major issue for New Zealanders, but are are our kids suffering because of a lack of money or a lack of good parenting?

Tonight Kiwis voted Yes to the moot ‘Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting’ during national debate programme The Vote, which screened tonight on TV3.

Guyon Espiner and the Affirmative team were declared the winners of the debate at the end of the hour-long show with the votes tallied at 63% YES, 37% NO.

The arguments for:
• As a community we have to support families. I think we should be assessing how they’re getting their entitlement they’re entitled to and where is that money going because the problem is, for some families, the money comes straight in, it maybe goes to the relatives in the islands, it maybe goes to the loan shark, it maybe goes to the pokie machines, it maybe goes to whatever, but it’s not been prioritised and I think job description 101 for parents is a roof, shelter for your kids and food for your kids. – Bob McCoskrie

• I was raised in a single parent home and proudly to say by a man not a woman. My mother was a runaway mum; she only raised one of her 11 children. I know child abuse, I know lots of things but I had the most amazing father. I did not believe for one minute that I would not be a good mother. I actually think I’m a sensational mother and I’m an amazing grandmother to ten grandchildren. - Hannah Tamaki

• [Feeding children a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast costs] something like 37 cents per serve. And you know it is pathetic to say that families can’t do that. If their children are their first priority, they’re going to spend that 37 cents a day and put that food in their belly. – Christine Rankin

• I’d like to say that there are so many wonderful parents who have money and there amazing amount of parents who don’t have money. It’s about the love that you put into your children. - Hannah Tamaki

• Well why not help families budget? Instead of giving them fish, teach them how to fish. - Bob McCoskrie

The arguments against:
• I’ve worked for a long time in the business, I’ve met some hard, hard women and I’ve met a few women I’d like to put my boot firmly up their jacksie in terms of what they’re not doing. What I’ve never met and I mean, never, I’ve never met a woman who did not want to deliver better to her children than that which she has experienced and the conversation we’re having is belittling those women. - Celia Lashlie

• Where I come from I see kids being raised in cars, in vans, and some of my whanau here from Destiny know because they’ve come from those same places. I know this to be true, I see kids coming to school that are angry because other kids have got kai. I know kids who rummage through the rubbish on the way to school to get something to eat. You know this is not what we call a decent society. – Hone Harawira

• Look I’m a paediatrician, I work in child protection, I see kids who have got terrible behaviour and there are some parents who really struggle and don’t do a great job but more often, what I see is parents whose income is just too low and their outgoings, particularly on the cost of housing, are just too high. – Russell Wills

• What we need to understand, the real issue for us here tonight is that if we keep saying it’s bad parenting, it allows us to sanctimoniously pat ourselves on the back and say that’s nothing to do with us and it’s everything to do with us because they’re our children. - Celia Lashlie

• The fact of the matter is, that in stable society where people have jobs, people have homes to live in and children are getting something to eat you don’t get the level of family breakdown. You don’t get the level of family violence that you’re referring to. You’ve got it back to front. Poverty leads to family violence. Not the other way around. - Hone Harawira

Abortion statistics by age and ethnicity

Thought I'd keep up my graph-making skills (very rudimentary) with the abortion statistics released yesterday. The overall rate continues to drop which is good news in anybody's book.  The first graph shows the number of abortions by ethnicity, where the steepest decline (but coming from the highest number) is amongst Europeans:
The next shows the number of abortions by age. There's a stand-out here. The very steep decline is amongst 15-19 year-olds. As I've mentioned before, the teenage birthrate has also been falling over exactly the same period. Taken alongside this information, we know that there are fewer pregnancies occurring (unless there were increased numbers of miscarriages which is doubtful.)

So less (heterosexual) sex, more use of contraception, more effective contraception? I don't know. But it's fantastic to see these trends.

(I didn't include the older age groups as the numbers are very small and wouldn't read on this scale. But the only age group to show a  slight increase is 45+ with 49 abortions in 2002 rising to 61 in 2012).

Inequality is better

Here's an interesting slant on inequality from the Institute of Economic Affairs:

Earlier this year, the Work Foundation published a study of inequality in Britain that threw up some uncomfortable findings for those who believe that income differentials are the root of all evil. The hypothesis put forward in The Spirit Level is that greater income equality fosters health and happiness while inequality is a direct cause of misery and unrest. ‘If you want to live the American dream,’ says Spirit Level co-author Richard Wilkinson, ‘you should move to Finland or Denmark’. But why travel so far? Inequality varies greatly within countries and so, since wealth disparities are most visible at the local level, moving to a more equal city should yield benefits.
The Work Foundation shows us exactly where these pockets of egalitarianism are. The most equal city in Britain turns out to be Sunderland, followed by such places as Bradford, Peterborough and Burnley. The least equal city is London, followed by the likes of Reading, Guildford and Milton Keynes. For the most part, inequality is concentrated in the wealthy south east of England and, as the study notes, ‘cities with high median wages almost always tend to have high inequality.’ The more equal cities, on the other hand, ‘tend not to be very affluent’. This trade-off between wealth and equality will come as no surprise to economists, but it is reassuring to know that the wealth in the less equal places trickles down.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Other welfare changes from July 15

I've recently blogged about the forthcoming Jobseeker Support Benefit which from July 15, will support the largest number of beneficiaries.

Some more changes according to cabinet papers - (these may not have survived the legislative passage);

The unemployment benefit was subject to an annual re-application process. So will the Jobseeker Support Benefit, meaning many more beneficiaries than previously will have to reapply every year. This process has seen thousands of unemployment beneficiaries disappearing each year. Between September 2010 and May 2012 almost 16,000 unemployment beneficiaries didn't have their benefit renewed "because of the reapplication process".

Until now (since 2007) pre-benefit activities eg attending a Work For You seminar or job  interview, have been required from people applying for an unemployment benefit. These will now extend to all Jobseeker and Emergency benefit applicants, and partners of applicants for either. The application lapses if the applicant fails to comply (there will be some exemptions if the applicants situation is worsening eg applicant's "health condition worsens".) If the partner isn't cooperative, the compliant primary applicant can continue and if successful receive "half of the couple rate" of the benefit eligible for.

More private contracting-out to work brokers is going to happen. The Minister anticipates that this will "give rise to public concerns." However she believes in "the expertise of third party providers". I have seen impressive data that support this view.

In the past, someone failing to accept an offer of employment earned a 'first sanction'. The Minister has proposed that these people have their benefit cancelled with a 13 week stand down period. (Go you good thing)

To be continued...Going to watch The Vote

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More on drug-testing beneficiaries

The following is an example of how drug-testing will operate in practice from a publicly released cabinet paper:

Advice from the Ministry of Health estimates that "up to 5,800 people could face sanctions associated with the new drug testing regime".

Estimate seems light to me. But they don't specify over what period.

Work and Income to start living up to their name

(Here I am in my 50s and yesterday was the first time in my life I involuntarily lost a paying job.  My sympathies to the full-time staff affected by the demise of the 126 year-old newspaper.)

The following was going to be next week's, now defunct Truth column:

In the middle of next month all major welfare benefits will end. Hopefully that's got your attention! It's true. The domestic purposes, invalid, sickness and unemployment benefits will disappear forever. Don't panic though. They will be replaced by Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and Supported Living Payment.  My initial response to this re-labelling exercise was weary cynicism. Why is the government bothering?

The major reason - Work and Income is set to become far more work-focussed than ever before and recategorising more people onto Jobseeker Support means more people will have work obligations. Apparently there will be 132,500 jobseeker beneficiaries, most with full-time work obligations. These will include women with children aged 14 or older who've come from the DPB. The minority with part-time obligations will include people who've come from the sickness benefit. If people suitable for jobs that require drug-free status can't pass a drug-test, they'll lose half of their benefit. If this happens a second time, their benefit (and any other assistance) will be suspended. The government says it's reasonable to expect people on a benefit not to engage in behaviours that limit their ability to find work.

Under the new system, the only beneficiaries who won't be expected to look for work are those on the Supported Living Payment, ex invalid beneficiaries, carers of the sick or infirm; and those on the Sole Parent Support with a child under 5 (though the last group will have planning-for-work obligations). Sole parents with children of school age will need to look for part-time jobs.

There are risks. Cabinet identifies them. One, if the economic revival falters, jobs won't be created and two, if there are IT glitches (think Novopay nightmare) public support for welfare reform and the government will be negatively impacted. For the sake of beneficiaries, and the prospects of a more productive, wealthier and healthier country, let's hope neither of these possibilities become realities.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Remembering Peter Dunne

 (Published in last week's Truth):

Many thoughts have occurred since hearing Peter Dunne's political career is down the toilet. Only a couple of weeks back he was launching a plan to tackle suicide, virtually on the eve of his own political equivalent. I'm not hugely interested in 'why'. He's gone and it doesn't pain me.

Dunne made an art-form out of survival. The master of sticking his finger in the wind and accurately identifying which direction it was blowing from. He supported the Clark government  from 2005 but the relationship was faltering by mid-2007 - coincidentally, just as he sniffed a forthcoming victory for the National Party.  As Clark started smooching up to the Greens, Dunne whinged, "What is the point of being the loyal and dutiful one when the other party is out there playing fast and loose?" Ironically he went on to use the analogy of marriage and warned that the "wandering eye" of one partner could become a "major problem". Prophetic?

In fact, it was Dunne sniffing around for a new partner. In mating with National he saved his own political skin yet again. Having begun his 30-year career in the Labour Party, Dunne has since pimped himself all over the show. That's primarily what I'll remember him for.

There's little else of note. His big 2002 "common-sense" policy plank, the Families Commission, was doomed from the outset, having been neutered by Labour's politically correct refusal to define a family. National should have dumped it in 2008 but needed Dunne as much as he needed them. It's a goner now, much of the funding shifted to more practical initiatives in 2012 (how mad did that make Dunne?)

Will anyone miss his annual scorecard on fellow parliamentarian's behaviour? An eccentric exercise by a pompous man who rated his own behaviour rather highly, his confession that the actions precipitating his ministerial demise were "stupid" at long last displayed some overdue humility. Cathartic hopefully.

The anti-smacking law isn't working

Six years ago the government passed anti-smacking legislation which was supposedly aimed at abusive parents - not good parents. We were told repeatedly, something had to be done about New Zealand's awful rate of child abuse so we'd all have to put up with the state interfering in our families despite there being no problem with the vast majority.

I would have thought 6 years was a reasonable period over which to judge whether the legislation was having the desired effect.

It's looking like the majority of New Zealanders who thought the law would fail were right.

Damning new figures released to ONE News reveal efforts to curb child abuse are failing. Rates of child abuse have risen by 32% in the last five years, with instances happening to children who are already in the care of the state.
A district judge has now spoken out, saying it is time for a new approach.

It's conceivable that the law is actually contributing to the rise as  children become more militant ("you can't touch me") and desperate carers are pushed to other forms of abuse - eg emotional.

So what is next?

She is calling for an independent monitoring organisation which would assign an appointee for each child in state care. This person would develop an on-going relationship with the child to help support them, ensure they're receiving a good education and that their personal care plans are being properly implemented.

Good God. Another layer.

Why not just return to basics? Adoption possibly....

(Hat-tip Bob McCoskrie for the link)