WelfareReform.co.nz is a resource for any individual or group interested in the evolving welfare state and social policy.
Many welfare models exist throughout the developed world. New Zealand’s welfare system is unusual in two ways, firstly, because it is funded through general
taxation. Secondly, because social cash transfers all fall under the auspices of one government agency, the Ministry of Social Development. Where New Zealand
does share commonality with other western nations is the growing proportion of people relying on the state for their income.
Hence successive governments have resolved to reduce welfare dependence, but without fully acknowledging or conveying the true level or nature of
dependence. Dependence can be described in terms of numbers and duration of stay. Both the distinction and the interaction between the two need to be clearly
described and understood. In New Zealand it isn’t (although the Welfare Working Group of 2011 explored and exposed dependence to a greater degree than
ever previously attempted.)
Each benefit constitutes a unique problem of itself. Furthermore, each benefit population is considerably varied. Not all claimants constitute a dependence
problem so identification of those who do is vital. Too often beneficiaries are treated in a generic way when they are a diverse population.
As mentioned, there is nothing peculiar to New Zealand about the general degree of welfare dependence although certain groups are particularly over-
represented, for example, single parents and Maori. To that end some groups may have greater potential for reduction of dependence and warrant special
Welfare reforms should be aimed at both prevention and moving people off benefits. Because the first may be the easier goal to achieve yet also affect the
greatest long term advantage, it may be worth prioritising. Welfare reform should consider;
a/ eligibility - both breadth and duration of
b/ taxation - incentives and disincentives
c/ removing impediments to independence
d/ non-cash forms of aid
e/ employment/entrepreneurial opportunities
f/ work versus training/education requirements
g/ rule changes combined with ‘grand-parenting’ or exemptions
The law of ‘unexpected consequences’ is as relevant to social policy as to any other policy. Best attempts to predict them should always be made. Fortunately
there is ample international experience to aid in this.
Lindsay Mitchell looks at Social Welfare Reform
in New Zealand and Overseas
ph/fx 04 562 7944
mob 021 132 5968