National to blame for growing divide | The Jackal

13 Feb 2013

National to blame for growing divide

Today, the Salvation Army released their fifth annual State of the Nation report The Growing Divide (PDF), which documents research done into crime and punishment, employment, incomes, social hazards, housing and the welfare of our children amongst many other issues.

Here's the forward:

We have two clear choices here: one is to continue the path we have been on more or less continuously for the past three decades, concentrating wealth and influence, and driving the marginalised further into the shadows, with yet more restrictive welfare entitlements and a yet more punitive criminal justice system. The other is to act more inclusively and to work consciously and deliberately at ways of ensuring that the most marginalised New Zealanders, and in particular, many poor families and unemployed young people, feel as though they are valued and valuable members of our society.’

~ Major Campbell Roberts, director of the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit.

The report is critical of our political process and talks about the current National government not having a moral authority to make sweeping changes because of their slimmest of majorities and nearly one million eligible voters staying away from the polls. It calls Rogernomics deceitful, and talks about the marginalization such destructive policies have caused.

What's particularly concerning is the increased violence against children of between 18% and 20% during 2010/11. The amount of reported cases of child neglect rose even more dramatically, which clearly indicates that things are getting worse and not better for many families under the current administration.

The report also highlights the fact that our Police and judiciary system is biased against Maori, confirming other research conducted into this area. It also shows that our prison population has hit a new record high, which aren't mutually exclusive dynamics in my opinion.

Over the six years covered by this data, Maori males have been up to 30% more likely than non-Maori males to be prosecuted by Police for the same or similar crime. Criminalisation can have serious longer-term consequences for young people both in terms of the pathway they are put on to address their offending and because of the way criminalisation can subsequently limit future life choices and chances.

There are some positive aspects in the report such as a slight reduction in child mortality rates, improved enrolment's in early childhood education, marginal improvement to NCEA achievement gaps and a reduction in the rates of some types offending... But in comparison to the negative statistics reported, they don't mean a great deal.

Here's what the Salvation Army says about New Zealands outlook for the future:

It is possible to gain the impression from the data presented that New Zealand does not at present appear to have any great aspirations for its children. Relatively high levels of child poverty persist year after year, high rates of child violence and child neglect continue without any major policy shift or change in attitudes; and too many, mainly poor, young people leave school with no qualifications and drift into crime or to becoming parents early.

The Salvation Army also report that there's been an increase in the amount of joblessness of 62% between 2006 and 2011, a dramatic decline in the numbers of 15 to 19 year olds in employment of 28% and a failure of wages and salaries to grow in inflation adjusted terms for the last two years. The Salvation Army's report card into work and incomes, especially for young people, is grim reading indeed.

The robust report also makes comparisons with Spain and Greece concerning New Zealands youth unemployment rate, and says that there's underreporting and insufficient data available that's hiding the true extent of the problem. The current government has obviously hid these statistics because they're damning.

The report reiterates something many commentators have been saying for a long time:

Government and local councils appear unwilling or unable to acknowledge the extent of the housing problem New Zealand is facing, despite warnings from independent agencies.

The housing shortage is getting worse despite the growing mass exodus out of New Zealand by thousands of Kiwis each year. Such dysfunction is a clear result of government lethargy as a result of believing the market knows best, which is clearly not the case.

The report also highlights the problem of Housing New Zealand implementing harsher criteria, and that the true extent of the housing problem is also hard to fully quantify because of a lack of proper statistics from the government and other regulatory institutions.

It's well worth a read if you're interested in learning about the state of the nation.