It’s beginning to dawn in some quarters that welfare itself is the problem rather than the solution. Firstly Lindsay Mitchell
Growing up in 1960s New Zealand, houses were smaller and families bigger. Paradoxically, overcrowding and child poverty weren’t a major issue. Most families had two parents and many could even afford a stay-at-home mum. A very small percentage of families experienced financial hardship associated with an absent father.
In 1973, influenced by the Royal Commission on Social Policy’s urgings, the government introduced a statutory benefit for sole parents regardless of the reason for their single parenthood. In the following 20 years unmarried births with no resident father more than quadrupled from around 2,500 to 12,000 – 22% of all births – annually. The relatively generous DPB saw single mums dropping out of the workforce. (The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society partially attributes this development to the eventual non-viability of Karitane hospitals which had provided live-in employment for unmarried mothers.)
These births accumulated in the statistics. By the early 1990s around a quarter of a million (mostly) mothers and children were dependent on the state for their survival. But the benefit still kept them above the poverty threshold.
The reality is raising children on one income is more difficult than on two. Compounding this are lower educational qualifications and work skills amongst the beneficiary population. Any moral judgement about single parents is irrelevant. Sole parents can raise children well but it’s nearly always a financial struggle.
So knowing where the major share of chronic poverty lies, what can be done about it?
Employment for existing sole parents, and deterrence for prospective, particularly young parents, is the most effective approach to reducing child poverty. In that respect Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple’s prescription is half right. But a strong and competitive economy capable of producing the necessary jobs won’t result from the greater taxation and wealth transfer the authors advocate.
A prevailing attitude that only government can solve child poverty is actually a large part of the problem. If there is a solution it largely lies in the hands of those who choose the circumstances in which their children will be raised.
The Auckland City Mission has put out a report in election year (surprise surprise) titled “Speaking for Ourselves”. They have asked 100 high users of their services about what keeps people in poverty.
However reading the report I will add a ninth (reason) that is I believe the most important driver keeping these people trapped in poverty (whatever that actually is).
9. Family size
page 9 – Amy is a mother of four children; two are at primary and two at high school. Amy lives in a HNZ home and has been on a benefit since her oldest child was young.
page 14 - Solomon and his wife are both in their mid- thirties and live in South Auckland with their eightchildren.
page 17 – I have a rental property, it’s a two-bedroom unit located in Mangere…We have a size of sixchildren plus myself and my wife, a total of eight persons in a two-bedroom unit in south Auckland……it gets worse….I’ve got me and six of the babies, but I always have Sarah, Jamie and Robert [children from another relationship] comes back to me every other night. So that’s just like 10 (well actually it is 11 with your wife but who can blame you for losing count?)
The Herald yesterday – “Ms Daniell-Wiig and her boys, 7 and 5″ …..but hold the phone…. “Ms Daniell-Wigg, who was declared bankrupt last year” …..and wait for it, as she says life is looking up “She has a new baby due on November 1″.
The report misses its mark entirely in raising the middle classes to be outraged at the situation because of this simple question I will now ask you all to consider.
Could you make ends meet with your middle class incomes if you had as many children per family used as examples in this report?
And if you think you can, what would your life be like?
The left like to wallow in the claims of poverty in New Zealand and how solving it is not simple. They then justify their existence spending millions having University academic analyse it and write reports. No one however addresses the rampant irresponsibility of people who are so poorly educated and never going to be earning large incomes, having multiple children. Many even when they are still on welfare and to multiple partners.
Until someone stands up and addresses the sensitive topic of just how many children the welfare system should encourage people to have that they can never afford, the poorest of the poor will never be anything other.