Monthly Archives: August 2011

Our ageing population; one more reason to change the Government

I’ve just been lucky enough to sit through a lecture on population ageing with Natalie Jackson. It was absolutely fascinating. Here are a few of the points that she stressed.

Population ageing is not simply about the increase in the number of people over 65; it’s about the increasing proportion of people over 65.

Not to labour the point – the following graph shows that in the 50s there were more young people than older people, and that as time is passing more people are living longer and fewer children are being born. As a result more health services will be needed, and there will be fewer workers to provide the services, tax and support for the retired.

New Zealand has a slightly different pattern:

As you can see in the graph below, from 2001 we will be slightly more protected for a while compared to other countries. But over the next 5 years, as the baby boomers retire, structural ageing will become more obvious. There will be 100,000 people exiting the work force over the next 5 years. In just 12 years we will have more people aged over 65 than people aged under 15.

As a country, we are incredibly lucky that the pattern of population ageing for Maori is radically different from Pakeha (graph below). This may protect us as a country from some of the shock of the change.

This is the picture at a national level, but it doesn’t tell us the full story as there are already significant differences between regions in New Zealand.

In about 7% of Territorial Authorities (TAs) have 20% of the population is aged over 65; by 2026 that will be closer to 75% of TAs. Currently, almost 40% of TAs have more people exiting the labour force than entering it and this will grow to around 70% within five years.

This pattern will be even more noticeable in other high income countries, which will further globalise the labour market. This means young people with qualifications will pretty much be able to go anywhere and ask for whatever they want, and soon there will be a likely drop in tertiary education attendance as qualifications won’t be required any longer to get a job.

If we are to keep our young people in the country, and prepare those in their 30s for the much faster promotion trajectory, we need to increase our investment in social support and education while we have the tax base to do it.

And let me be clear, extending youth rates and fire at will legislation, attacking welfare provisions and reducing the real investment in education etc etc, will not create a generation of young people who feel valued and loyal.

Will you turn a blind eye?

Whose responsibility is child poverty? The movie Oranges and Sunshine brings attention to the outrageous situation of 130,000 poor children being sent unaccompanied to Australia from the U.K to help whiten Australia. This happened from the 19th Century until the 1970s. The Catholic Church, various charitable organisations, and both governments were actively engaged in this.

These children were often told their parents were dead, when in fact they were not. These children were sent into the most spartan of environments, usually given only a shirt and shorts, not even shoes, provided with the barest minimum of food and made to do the work of adults to pay for these ‘services.’ Many of the children were physically and sexually abused. These children were aged from 4 -15 years of age when deported to Australia.

A social worker uncovered this story in the mid 1980s and asked the U.K government and the other agencies involved to help reunite the children with their identities and family if they were still alive. The government and agencies refused to take any action to assist these children, now adults, for 23 years.

 While many of us may still have a very imperfect understanding of the role racism in colonisation, this story highlights how the poor/children were used as pawns in this. It was as if the U.K government thought it could eliminate a class of people while assisting Australia to eliminate an entire people. Is this what they thought was win-win problem solving?

Sadly I think the attitudes shown in the film continue today in the dominant attitudes to child poverty in this country. Those in power said the children were victims of terrible parents rather than any institution or government; they did not at any time consider these children as citizens or whole beings and there was no-one checking to see if their basic needs were being met.

We’re told by the Government that a rational response to the 270,000 children living in poverty in this country is to make those bad/lazy parents go to work and cut their benefits if they don’t (There is no such thing as the working poor, of course). Childrens’ rights as citizens and human beings are completely ignored in this scenario. While CYFs struggles to have the resources to respond to serious physical and sexual abuse, the state is not checking whether these 270,000 children have enough food, adequate shelter and clothing, let alone access to education.

A core Green Party policy for this election is to lift at least 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014. We believe all children are entitled to the basic human rights.

This can be done by:

  • Extending working for families to beneficiaries
  • Regulating rental housing
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Reinstating and extending the Training incentive allowance

This is a choice for all of us; turn a blind eye, say it’s someone else’s problem; or vote to change it.

Child poverty is not an overly complex problem, in fact it’s one of the easier ones to solve.

Politics – with a capital P

I’m not actually that interested in the machinations of big P Politics, who got what in the polls, who’s doing deals with who, or who said what about who…

Specifically, I am not interested in political strategy when the focus is attracting the elusive middle-New Zealand voter.

I know some people will say this makes me politically naive, maybe it does, but I’d rather be naive than vulnerable to compromising my ideals.

However there’s one ‘Political’ thing I do want to quickly respond to. There has been a lot of discussion about Gareth Hughes not running for the candidate vote in Ohariu-Belmont. This has been compared to National not running for the candidate vote in Epsom in favour of ACT.

It is different in ways that the commentators don’t seem to understand.

The Greens only campaign for the party vote. We are not running any campaigns for electorate seats and we haven’t for the last three elections. There is a very simple reason for this, and it’s not that we don’t want to be or wouldn’t be good electorate MPs. It’s because it costs significantly more money to campaign for a seat as well as a party vote.

The reality for the Greens is we run more on love than money, and we are not in a position to campaign for the personal vote. It’s a shame because I do think there is something very privileged and special about representing an electorate.

National has the resources and the possibility of winning the Epsom seat, but they are choosing not to campaign for the candidate vote because they want ACT in Parliament with them.