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
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
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.