All jobs are not created equal

"The investment approach treats all jobs as equal."

With a minimum adult wage in New Zealand of $15.25 per hour, a varying level of skill among workers and a glaringly obvious lack of meaningful work opportunities for the low-skilled, considering this statement leaves one feeling rather incredulous about Government's measures for success of the so-called investment approach.

Last week Government congratulated itself on an apparently substantial number of people off benefits over the past year. But they decided not to correlate their data findings with other social changes – such as an increase in uptake of food parcel services.  The whopping number of food parcels given out by Auckland City Mission – 13,714 in the past 12 months is reportedly more than in any other calendar year.

Well, certainly there are fewer people on benefits. But this does not mean people have moved into better financial situations. Government heralds the investment approach as successful based on the reduction in the number of people on benefits and cost-savings based on a long-term liability measure. But these are the only measures of any apparent value. We’re not provided any supplementary data verifying what situations former beneficiaries have moved into, or whether they are any better off. We do know that the total number of sanctions last year was around 70,000, but we don't know the number of sanctions that have been applied to beneficiaries causing their benefits to be cancelled or curtailed. And we don’t know the number of sanctioned beneficiaries who have dependent children nor have we any notion of the impact of reduced income on these children. But what we are seeing is a rise in families with children who are living in cars and garages. Furthermore, we are seeing added strain imposed on charities who are relied upon for the shortfall.

According to Simon Chapple this morning: "Leaving benefit and getting a job are positively – but far from perfectly – related. People may go off benefit into education, building up a debt they are unable to service."

Eleanor Ainge Roy of The Guardian (NZ) last week reported: "Experts agree that increasingly New Zealand’s most desperate citizens are “opting out” of the state welfare system due to its complex administration requirements and hardline approach."

Our Government looks at the numbers but that is all. It appears not to consider the implications and links to the rapidly deteriorating situation for many of New Zealand's low-to-middle income families. It seems a logical conclusion to draw, that more people "off benefits" links directly to the increasing poverty and evident distress in our midst.