ON AIR: Mike Hosking Breakfast

6a.m. - 9a.m.

Mike Yardley: Welfare is not good for well-being

Author
Mike Yardley,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 21 January 2019, 5:10p.m.
The number of people on the benefit has jumped in 12 months, writes Mike Yardley. (Photo / NZ Herald)

It’s a big week in Europe for the Prime Minister, with a starring role at the World Economic Forum in Davos. And it’s expected that we’ll learn more about her idea of well-being, as will the swooning luvvies in Switzerland.

It’s shaping up to be this government’s buzzword of the year, isn’t it? Well-being. The well-being agenda. The well-being approach. The well-being budget. But what the hell does it exactly mean, in a tangible sense?

I would have thought that leading a productive, independent life is the essential foundation to enhancing well-being.

And on that score, this coalition government is racking up a growing well-being deficit.

Late last week, the Ministry of Social Development released its quarterly report on benefit numbers. And it’s no surprise that the government conspicuously stayed quiet. Because there was nothing to crow about. Quite the contrary.

290,000 working age people are currently receiving a main benefit. That’s jumped 3.3 per cent in just twelve months. But what’s even more dismal, given the robust health of the New Zealand economy, is the sizeable jump in Kiwis joining the dole ranks. That has shot up by 11,000 people, year on year. Despite the well-publicised and gaping labour shortages plaguing a swag of sectors, the proportion of the working age population parked up on the dole is at its highest level in four years. That is shameful.

Is it really just a coincidence that this welfare upswing comes at the same time that the number of sanctions issued against recalcitrant beneficiaries has dramatically plummeted by over 40 per cent? The Greens are demanding all sanctions be axed, alongside increasing all benefit payments by twenty per cent.  And they may get their way. They have so far, on welfare.

But how does feather-bedding the social welfare hammock enhance an individual’s well-being?

Expanding the welfare state does not expand well-being. Long-term dependency is a dead end. Standing on your two feet is the only way to get ahead and boost your self-worth. But this government is sending all the wrong signals on dependency. Welfare is not well-being

ON AIR: Mike Hosking Breakfast

6a.m. - 9a.m.