Welfare numbers

The HoS reports:

Paula Bennett’s reputation for being tough on beneficiaries is in jeopardy as figures reveal record high numbers on state financial support.

Labour spokeswoman for social development Jacinda Ardern said the highest unemployment numbers were at around 10 per cent in the early 1990s but support for solo parents and invalids have hit record highs during Bennett’s reign as Social Development Minister.

“When it comes to the worst DPB, sickness, and invalid benefit numbers, these have all been since 2010 and under Paula Bennett,” Ardern said. “Interestingly, the two highest figures for the DPB were both after the introduction of Bennett’s welfare reforms, which mostly targeted DPB recipients by increasing their work obligations.”

Ardern provided the Herald on Sunday with figures which showed:

Between January 2009 and January 2012, the number of people on the DPB rose by 13.2 per cent. During the same period, the number of people on the unemployment benefit rose by 82 per cent. “The Government seems to be clamping down on DPB mums in an effort to show ‘action’ to mask their ‘inaction’ in employment and job creation,” Ardern said. “But neither figure will budge unless the core issue of job availability is first addressed.”

The moment I saw this story, I had a fair idea of what the actual data would show. Yes more people on those benefits between those two dates, but not a linear pattern. Of course Jan 2009 was as the GFC was in full force, and hence job losses occurring.  Also the comparison stops 12 months ago. Why?

Let’s look at the actual data, in terms of increase or decrease each year. For DPB they are

  • 2008 +2,128
  • 2009 +9,007
  • 2010 +3,576
  • 2011 +1,365
  • 2012 -5,112

I think we now understand why Jacinda left the 2012 figures off. What I don’t know is why the Herald on Sunday did.

Let’s do the same with Invalid’s Benefit numbers.

  • 2008 +3,419
  • 2009 +1,537
  • 2010 +67
  • 2011 -1,062
  • 2012 -472

And for those interested in the Unemployment Benefit.

  • 2008 +7,760
  • 2009 +35,820
  • 2010 +756
  • 2011 -7,120
  • 2012 -6,217

They all show the same thing. The increase in benefit numbers started in 2008 (under Labour) and worsened in 2009 as the Global Financial Crisis struck.  Despite patchy economic growth since 2009, benefit numbers in all three categories have fallen in the last two years.

One has to congratulate Jacinda for getting the Herald on Sunday to run an entire story based on selective cherry-picked data. That’s a good achievement for an Opposition MP.

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