International women’s day? How are the worst off mothers and their kids doing?

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So today is International womens day. Before we celebrate, spare a thought for the  mothers stuck under the lowest of all povery lines.

They are doing appallingly badly and their children are not thriving.  How little we acknowledge the value of the work these mothers do looking after their children with so few resources.

 Is anyone surprised by the latest official child poverty stats? 

Here is the CPAG graph updated for the latest figures (pre-COVID) . It shows the percentages of children under the three after-housing costs poverty lines found in Government’s official targets. 

Not much to get excited about here.  Using part of child tax credits that are supposed to alleviate child poverty in order to incentivise work has helped lock 168,000 children in the red zone where they are set to stay under current policies and be joined by many thousands more as benefit numbers swell under COVID.   

Of course benefits are too low.  But practically all we hear is that  core bnefits should be raised. 

Let’s not forget the original slashing of adult benefits by Ruth Richardson in 1991 to incentivise full-time paid work was followed in 1996 by Bill Birch’s cuts to children’s tax credits. This served as a double whammy when parents were on those unliveable benefits. 

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The 1996 Child Tax Credit of $15 per week per child was given only to those ‘independent of the state’. It was a lot of money back then.

The Child Tax Credit was expanded in 2006 as part of Working for Families (WFF) to become the even more discriminatory In Work Tax Credit—a child payment to alleviate poverty worth today at least $72.50 a week, more for larger families, but only for the children of the ‘deserving’.   Parents had to be both off benefits and in paid work of 20 hours for a sole parent or 30 hours for a couple. The intention was give those ‘undeserving’ parents (largely sole mothers) an incentive to get full time paid work regardless of whether disabled, sick as well as caring for their young children.

In a timid move last year, the set hours of work requirement for the In Work Tax Credit was reduced to just needing to have some paid work (as well as being off benefit). But if no more than ‘some’ paid work is a requirement how does the In Work Tax Credit operate as a work incentive exactly?  

Meaningful reform to WFF is well over-due. There is much unconscious bias and implicit racism in the current WFF. The complex system has not delivered the gains promised by work incentives or reductions in child poverty. The discrimination against children in New Zealand’s major income support programme for children is inconsistent with inclusive child poverty goal achievements and makes their poverty and the poverty of their mothers worse.

All  politicians and bureaucrats in MSD need to  please repeat 20 times over or until they get it:  benefits are for adults, Working for Families tax credits paid to the caregiver are for children. Both benefits and children’s tax credits (WFF) need to be radically improved. WFF must be made fully  inclusive  and indexed to wages. Will we be still saying the same thing next International Womens’s day?

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. The standard of living is guaranteed to decline, I’m afraid, because energy and food costs are rising globally. And the sociopaths that comprise the Adern government are not interested in the welfare of the populace; the welfare of banks, corporations, opportunists and politicians come first.

    • Mother hood and parenthood are the most important jobs in NZ or anywhere, but they attract little economic support.
      Much mental illness, crime, suicide and violence, stem from struggling stressed families who get negligible support in our economy . The victims are often through inter-generational family hardship. Meanwhile vast profits are sucked out of the community by many who are wealthy, some not even living in the communities the draw excessive wealth from. For most consumed items a profit is taken. In grower based communities food and resources are shared on a need basis and contributing without fiscal profit gathering. Communities bound by collective effort often give greater support to family life. They are less divided and alone. Its the village structure that supports its member families and future hopes.

  2. “There is much unconscious bias and implicit racism in the current WFF”

    Evidence please. Can the author substantiate this statement?

    • Unfortunately, action which impacts more upon Maori than on Caucasian or Asian or other, is interpreted as aimed at Maori, when this may not be so. It is disappointing when academia does it.

      I will never forget losing the Family Benefit. It was my only independent income when I was a full time mum, and it should be restored – even if this means just more pin money for the real housewives of reality television.

      • Hi Applewood. What you describe – action that impacts racially but is not directly intended to do so – is the very definition of unconscious bias. It requires policymakers to ‘decide’ to put resources out in a particular way, unconsciously omitting or rejecting the spaces where Maori are. So don’t blame academics for being academic – and right. Susan, your constant fighting in this space earned my respect years ago. You never stop this work. And you never should.

        • Hi Liz – As an erstwhile academic, I don’t think that this is necessarily as black and white as you seem to be suggesting.

          ‘Unconscious bias ‘ may also be a currently convenient buzz word used to try and describe things which cannot be proven. It may be in the same category as the
          “Repressed memory syndrome”, used to wreck the lives of Peter Ellis and his colleagues in Christchurch, and not generally accepted by sociologists.

          And, as you say, Susan St John’s good work deserves to be much respected.

        • Thanks for encouragement Liz
          Quick comment to others. No one is saying that Maori children are deliberately denied the full WFF on ethnic grounds. But the unintended impact of the IWTC policy is to disproportionately disadvantage Maori children.
          Sole parents- predominately women or married women to men on benefits re also disproportionately impacted. WE are usually blind to seeing these impacts of policy

        • No Liz, inequality of outcome is NOT the “very definition of unconscious bias”. Unconscious bias is when prejudices based on ethnicity, gender, religion, appearance etc influence decision making. For example, if a job search panel interviews someone who is overweight, some panel members might unconsciously (or consciously) assume the interviewee is lazy or lacking in self-discipline.

          However, devotees of identity politics now often equate inequalities of outcome across different demographics with “unconscious bias”. This is either very sloppy thinking, or dishonest. If you care to look around you, and if you know any history, you will see that inequalities of outcome across different demographics are the norm, and not the exception. Such inequalities of outcome can arise for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with unconscious bias. For example, students of East Asian descent are over-represented among admissions to elite US universities – would you interpret this as evidence of unconscious bias? And the educational and economic over-achievement of Ashkenazim Jews in the US (in the face of prejudice) is well-documented. Even more convincing is the same success of said Jews in Europe, where they didn’t just face prejudice, but persecution. Under the Ottoman empire, Christian Greeks and Armenians became *on average* better-educated and wealthier than Muslim Turks, despite facing economic and legal discrimination by the Ottoman state – this inequality of outcome presumably driven by differences in cultural priorities and inclinations.

          Inequalities of outcome across different ethnic groups understandably worry governments and social justice advocates. But efforts to better the lot of disadvantaged people will only succeed if they are based on honest observation, sound reasoning, and accurate diagnosis of the causes of inequalities.

          • PPII
            Accepted as a concept but when a group through cultural “constraints” is out competed by another then the effect of that must be realised in fairness to familes as the cradle of our society, has to be acknowledged and made provisions for.

            Dog eat dog on grounds of performance, may suit the top dog who then dictates what happens.
            Although civilisations may have grown with some of that principle, there are very profound consequences for many not born on the right side of those tracks.
            In a society not struggling for housing, food and the where withal to live, these perceived inequalities of culture, intellect or ability to find a financially rewarding niche may depend on groups looking after their own.
            But when large groups are in dire struggle financially for a variety of reasons then Society has to look long and hard at where the wealth from human labour and human support is channeled. If the top dogs are not showing responsibility for their community then that won’t happen.
            Discombulation eventuates.

            • John W, I don’t know where you get “dog eat dog” from. Maybe go back and read my last paragraph once again?

              “… efforts to better the lot of disadvantaged people will only succeed if they are based on honest observation, sound reasoning, and accurate diagnosis of the causes of inequalities.”

  3. Good Post @ SSJ.
    However:
    You will have heard the expression; “Putting the cart before the horse”?
    Before any of our tax money’s spent anywhere on anything, neoliberalism with its associated curse, privatisation, must be crushed and the perpetrators, with the emphasis on ‘-trators’ must be held accountable then once found guilty are asset stripped and imprisoned ( Or chipped and forced out to work for us to pay us back after their assets have been seized then liquidated, and our money’s returned to us.)
    Otherwise, any taxes paid to anyone at risk or otherwise is eventually going back into the neoliberals pocketsess. Our tax money simply goes off for a ride on neoliberal’s custom made money-go-round comprised of banks, once state owned infrastructure, rents, housing, public transport and a shockingly bias tax system favouring the already hyper wealthy because ‘trickle down’ suckers !
    We have to fix a few problems before we spend more money on the poor only to have the rich vacuum it up the moment it arrives in their banksters accounts.
    ( Here’s a conspiracy theory for you? Surely, the neoliberals would have foreseen a day when the penny dropped, pardon the pun, and we came to realise that we’ve been fucked without the kissing? Would they have imagined rioting groups of armed revolutionaries in running street battles with our cops and the military? Just like in many other countries? Such things are going on as I write. Myanmar and India are two countries that spring to mind.
    Bear with…? What if our security apparatus knew about tarrant all along and as he trained in AU and here, they we’re planning on how best to capitalise on an ‘asset’?
    They’d have known he was Hell bent on only targeting Muslims and that the broader AO/NZ communities were relatively safe form the nutter.
    Did they come up with the idea that they could use him and his actions to leverage our weapons out of our warm peaceful hands before we twigged on that it was simply a cadre of well educated crooks who’ve ripped us off then exploited us for more than 35 years and in so doing has created a second or third generation poverty class?
    We would be very, very angry and they knew we would be.
    I admit, it’s a nuts idea and I feel uncomfortable having written the above but we must admit? Neoliberalism is alive and well and nothing has changed expect the frocks. And the relentless realisations that we’ve been betrayed.

  4. The biggest ugliest issue facing newly single parents is of course Housing – dividing the family home to then attempt to buy solo, or to find a new rental – good luck. PS don’t vote labour next time hmm>? When you see Jacinda on telly looking glam, think ‘Badjelly the witch’ because that’s how she looks on the inside – and teach your kids not to be shallow and to be critical thinkers

  5. Neoliberal government had to introduce the working for families as working conditions are now so dire in NZ and the wages so poor, that the government stepped in to subsidise employers so workers can survive enough to get to work. (Although many paying the least wages are making the most profits)…. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/106288425/supermarket-owners-banking-super-profits-nbr-rich-list-shows

    Scary statistic of the day. These are all the returnee’s welcome back to our shores….. so I guess we need more money for police, justice and woman’s refuge by the sounds of it to pay for the 50% increase in police call outs just to MIQ people…

    Family harm incidents in managed isolation hotels causing almost half of all police callouts
    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2021/03/family-harm-incidents-in-managed-isolation-hotels-causing-almost-half-of-all-police-callouts.html

    More ‘nice’ well behaved folks into 100% NeoKind NZ. And this is when they are being supervised, what happens when they get out!

  6. Neoliberal government had to introduce the working for families as working conditions are now so dire in NZ and the wages so poor, that the government stepped in to subsidise employers so workers can survive enough to get to work. (Although many paying the least wages are making the most profits)…. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/106288425/supermarket-owners-banking-super-profits-nbr-rich-list-shows

    Scary statistic of the day. These are all the returnee’s welcome back to our shores….. so I guess we need more money for police, justice, mental health, social services and woman’s refuge by the sounds of it to pay for the 50% increase in police call outs just to MIQ people…

    Family harm incidents in managed isolation hotels causing almost half of all police callouts
    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2021/03/family-harm-incidents-in-managed-isolation-hotels-causing-almost-half-of-all-police-callouts.html

    Yikes. More ‘nice’ well behaved folks into 100% NeoKind NZ. And this is when they are being supervised, what happens when the perpetrators get out!

  7. You could replace our leader with a concerned looking cardboard cutout and the plight of the poor would not change. She litetally does not give a @#$%.

  8. Did anyone else catch Seven Sharp tonight? Jeremy Wells wished Hilary Barry “Happy International Women’s Day”, then, when she went to enthusiastically talk about it, he cut her off and said ” there’s no need to go on about it,” leaving Hilary looking visibly upset.

    Dear Jeremy,

    When you take a cheap shot at your unsuspecting female co-host, humiliating her, all you do is remind women viewers of every white male privileged arsehole that has done the same, and why things have to change. I know you enjoy being controversial, but that wasn’t funny, it was nasty and cruel. The look on Hilary’s face said it all.
    From,
    Every woman ever.

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